Teams Use Warm Up Shirts to Raise Awareness for Social Causes


Photo Courtesy of Amanda Phillips

“Together We Rise” jersey signify DEI work within the athletic department.

Editors’ note: This article contains mention of gun violence.

Many high school, college, and major league sports teams have utilized shirts and other items to show support for certain causes. Whether this is a representative color or an article of clothing with a meaningful message, teams can help uplift their communities with their jerseys.

On Feb. 15, Michigan State University suffered a school shooting that left three students dead and five wounded. Three days later, the University of Michigan basketball team, the Wolverines, played against the Michigan State Spartans, and decided to show their support through their warm-up shirts. Before the matchup, the Wolverines both on the court and in the stands sported T-shirts with the phrase “Michigan Basketball Stands With MSU.” Michigan was able to show support to MSU and acknowledge their difficult time with this kind message. 

Similar to how Michigan wore shirts to support MSU, many teams at Oberlin also participate in sending messages to serve a greater purpose. Teams such as women’s basketball, men’s basketball, and men’s soccer have all shown meaningful displays of support. For example, the men’s basketball and football teams often participate in pediatric cancer awareness fundraisers by donning yellow shoe laces during the game. 

“Whether it’s fundraising for various cancer research, promoting unity through our gear and slogans, or just creating an atmosphere where students feel comfortable talking about their mental health, we are constantly looking for ways that our program can help in any way we can,” said Basketball Head Coach Shiva Senthil. 

Oberlin College Athletics strives to show how it stands for various causes such as cancer awareness, racial injustice, and mental health. They are also constantly looking for new ways to showcase future messages throughout the team including both coaches and players.  

“Coaches have worn patches on their arms to raise support in the fight against muscular dystrophy,”  newly instated Head Football Coach John Pont said. “As I get to know our team better and the causes that are important to them, we will develop our plans for future messages, actions, and activities.” 

Another example is the women’s basketball team. The team has an annual “gold game” wearing gold and yellow shoelaces, in a partnership with the Go4TheGoal Foundation, to raise awareness to support and raise money for pediatric cancer.

“It is something small but has a huge impact as we have a major fundraiser and ask everyone to donate what they can,” second-year captain Bryana Woodard said. “Since we are the players they are watching, it makes it impossible for them to separate the cause from the game when we wear the laces.” 

Oberlin coaches participated in the National Association of Basketball Coaches sponsored “Coaches vs. Cancer” weekend to show support for the American Cancer Society. This participation not only helps bring awareness to cancer but also helps promote healthy living. 

“We wore sneakers in an effort to raise awareness for the fight against cancer,” Senthil said. “There are just so many ways that athletic teams here and across the country try to show support.”

Women’s Basketball Head Coach Stephany Dunmyer wore themed warm up shirts to highlight a specific cause called “Play4Kay,” the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s breast cancer awareness initiative. The team also has current warm up shirts that say “Together We Rise” on the back. 

“This is to show our team’s commitment to and support of our athletic department’s DEI work and commitment to create an inclusive environment for all,” Dunmeyer said.  

One of the core values of this team is to create an environment of inclusion. With these shirts, the women’s team is able to stand with important causes. 

Oberlin College Athletics works each day to emanate the core values of many teams. These include leadership, resiliency, inclusion, and being overall good people. The warm up shirts, colored laces, and participating in fundraising events are just a few of the ways that Oberlin continues to show support for the surrounding community. 

“The ideas we have for the future include charity games that create fundraising opportunities to support various causes, working with local youth organizations to create a partnership with them, or anything else,” Senthil said. “We are always on the look to see how we can make a positive contribution to our community.”