the NBA has spoiled me. the level of skill of the pro players’ game is simply astounding. when i tried to watch a college tournament game between notre dame and texas tech a few days ago, a mantra kept going through my mind: the skill level of college basketball sucks. for me, the pro game is like going to a top rated restaurant and enjoying a ribeye steak cooked rare; the college game is wolfing down a big mac in a mcdonalds parking lot.
but today, st peter’s university mens basketball has shifted my callous opinion.
the peacocks are in the “elite eight” and today play north carolina for a spot in the final four. their extreme underdog status is impressive enough. they are the first 15th seeded team to make it this far in the tournament. but watching the last few minutes over their win over purdue really got my attention.
from an article in america magazine:
Of the 15 players on the Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team, 14 of them are Black. The players chose to add a Black Lives Matter patch to their uniforms that shows their support for racial justice. The patches have caused some controversy among Saint Peter’s more conservative alumni as the team plays on the biggest stages of college sports.
University president Dr. Eugene Cornacchia recounts, “I recently got a call from someone who asked me to make [the players] take it off their uniforms before we go to this next competition and I said, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ We teach them to stand up for what they believe in, and this is what they believe in, and we’re going to support them. We teach our students to promote justice in our world, and for them this is their opportunity to communicate what they’ve experienced as Black men coming from an urban environment in this country.”
i applaud st peter’s administration for not squashing the player’s desire to wear blm attire. i imagine that the vast majority of universities– especially in high profile sports like football and basketball– succumb to the desires of rich alumni. most do not want their athletes expressing their social justice stances in such a high stakes marketing game.
the action by st peters’ men’s team is all the more impressive since they are doing their “protest” now. back in 2020 during the george floyd worldwide actions for promoting the dignity of black lives, many students and players were wearing blm inspired clothing. st peters is keeping the dream of equality alive when it is less popular.
the university’s name is not insignificant either. for me, it is wonderful that the apostle peter responded in love to the resurrected jesus (john 21 1: 1-17) with action. jesus said to peter:
“Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you,j when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
ultimately, out of love for his Lord, the consequence for following jesus and staying true to his faith, peter was crucified (upside down.) acting out of convictions of love will often not bring applause but criticism and for some, even death. martin luther king jr is but one example.
the young men on st peter’s hoops squad are learning this life lesson as they share their talents and convictions on the court.
today, st peters university men’s basketball play a game. win or lose, i hope their blm statement will bring more people to respect the dignity of black men and women– especially through the stories that our black brothers and sisters tell of the constant injustices that they face. will we listen?
as we follow jesus in our lives, may we have the courage to live out the consequences of love in the face of criticism and strife. may we stand with those who suffer– especially those who suffer racial injustice.
p.s.–even st peters university’s mascot is unusual: the peacock. it is an ancient symbol of resurrection and life eternal ( https://aleteia.org/2017/06/26/what-does-the-peacock-symbolize-in-christian-art/ ). image if st peters played the duke blue devils in the next game!
GO ST PETER’S PEACOCKS!