A week ahead of February, Matt McGann knew that he wanted the men’s basketball team to start a conversation about Black History Month.
McGann, the team’s video coordinator, was inspired by the NBA and UTA’s previous equality-centered T-shirts when he designed some new gear for this year’s team.
So when the Mavericks took to the court for pregame warmups against the University of Louisiana Monroe on Feb. 1, they debuted new T-shirts featuring various black historical figures.
The black T-shirts feature two gold bars across the chest. The top bar reads “Ask Me About,” with the second bar changing depending on who each member of the team chose to represent.
Ask me about Rosa Parks.
Ask me about Barack Obama.
On the back, a Kobe Bryant quote reads, “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.”
McGann said he started brainstorming when the team was traveling back to Arlington after securing a 64-62 win over Texas State University on Jan. 25.
“I really attacked it like, ‘What’s the message that UTA basketball wants to provide?’” McGann said. “We want to educate, we want to inform. We want to tell people about what they might not know about.”
Every team member, including coaches and support staff, either chose a historical figure to represent or was assigned one. McGann said everyone on the team is different, so he wanted to find a way to spread the same message with different words.
After every team member chose who they would represent, they would give presentations about those figures to teach and learn something new. Junior guard Davis Steelman said he chose Nelson Mandela because he was able to get up close and personal with his history last year.
Steelman traveled to South Africa and visited the Nelson Mandela Museum, the Apartheid Museum and Mandela’s house. He said he immediately knew that he wanted to represent Mandela when McGann pitched the idea.
His presentation to the team featured the knowledge he picked up about apartheid and South African civil rights issues on his trip.
“I think a lot of people didn’t really know about Nelson Mandela and the whole apartheid situation,” Steelman said. “[My presentation] was a little longer, I think, than a lot of other people’s, but I already knew about it.”
Although the presentations were different for each person, they all achieved the same goal of educating people on and around the team.
Freshman guard Sam Griffin chose to represent Nipsey Hussle on his T-shirt. Hussle, a former rapper and activist, was shot and killed in April 2019.
Griffin said he chose Hussle because of the emphasis he placed on reducing black-on-black crime. Hussle’s message to come together as one stuck with Griffin after his untimely death.
“It translates to the court,” Griffin said. “As a team, you have to be as one. We can’t worry about whatever the outsiders have to say. We just have to stay together.”
Since their debut on Feb. 1, McGann said he has already been asked about the T-shirts by about 20 to 30 people. The goal of spreading the same message with different words has paid off for the team since the start of the month.
“[It’s] about educating younger people, older people on our history and how we can be better from it, but also embrace and admire the people who paved the way for us,” McGann said.