The executive director of the Coaches vs. Racism campaign that brought men’s college basketball teams from Michigan and Prairie View A&M to the nation’s capital says he found inspiration for his new project from Coaches vs. Cancer.
“We wanted to make it a full experience, rather than just a basketball game between an HBCU school and a Power 5 school. Our vision is to kind of model it after Coaches vs. Cancer — (Dick Vitale) and ESPN have done a really good job of keeping the narrative alive of fighting cancer. And what I wanted to do was something similar to that,” Darryl Woods said in a telephone interview. “Cancer is a dreaded disease, and we look at racism as a disease. No one is born with it, but it can be brought upon you in various ways.”
Coach Juwan Howard and his No. 6-ranked Wolverines (1-0) will face Prairie View A&M (0-2) in a Big Ten vs. Southwestern Athletic Conference matchup on Saturday night at Entertainment and Sports Arena, an arena used for practice by the NBA’s Wizards and for games by the WNBA’s Mystics.
The inaugural Coaches vs. Racism contest is about more than the game. Among other associated events, Michigan visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Friday.
Howard said his players are learning more about racism and the civil rights movement.
“African American history has a lot of great, rich history as far as there are many African Americans that have done amazing things,” he said.
Such as when John Carlos courageously raised a fist at the 1968 Olympics in protest against racism. The team met him at the statue honoring his sacrifice.
“Coaches and athletes can make a significant difference in society,” Carlos said.
“It feels good to play for a cause,” Michigan forward Terrance Williams II said.
Williams and center Hunter Dickinson are from D.C.
“I’m really happy that we’re able to give back and play this game,” Dickinson said.
“Part of our mission is to educate, especially with this current generation. ... We really feel like this generation could be the one to put a dent in certain aspects of social injustice,” Woods said. “Our message is bridging the racial divide through sports. That’s really want we want to do. Its not a Black thing. It’s not a white thing. It’s not a gender thing.”
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He said his hope is to eventually schedule “multiple games in multiple cities” under the Coaches vs. Racism banner, and include women’s basketball, as well as perhaps other sports.
“Our group decided on possibly putting together a game and creating a platform that would allow coaches, student-athletes and those in the sports arena, in general, to have a voice and a stage,” Woods said. “Part of our job is to not let the narrative die, whether it’s fighting systemic racism or (supporting) social justice. We want to provide a platform.”
The game will raise money for HBCUs.