WVU athletic director: The BLM stickers worn by certain athletes advocate for unity, safety, and equality. MORGANTOWN, WV (WCHS/WVAH) – The Black Lives Matter stickers worn by certain West Virginia Institution football players on their helmets are optional, according to the university, and the message is one of "unity, safety, and equality."
The BLM movement began as a response to police violence against African-Americans but has since become a broader advocacy group that seeks social justice for people of color across multiple issues. Some WVU players have worn the stickers this season in support of racial equality.
Stickers with similar messages have been worn by NFL players including DeAngelo Williams of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Eric Weddle of the Baltimore Ravens.
WVU president Jeff Donaldson said in a statement that the university supports its students' right to free speech and they should not be punished for expressing themselves. He also mentioned that the institution will continue to work toward ensuring that all students feel safe at WVU.
Donaldson's comments came after it was reported that some WVU athletes were wearing helmets with Black Lives Matter stickers during games this fall. The president said he was unaware of the stickers being worn by any players until told about them by media members following several games this season. He added that if any student-athletes felt like they could not wear these types of stickers because of school policy, then they should not wear them.
Despite widespread disagreement, Ohio State established themselves as the first football team to use a helmet sticker. Other schools, like Florida State and Clemson, have embraced the style, but nothing beats the sight of the frequently mischaracterized leaves on silver helmets.
In addition to Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame have also worn helmet stickers. No other school has done so extensively or for so long.
The tradition began in 1952 when Charlie Bauman, the father of Cleveland Browns quarterback Bob Bauman, decided that his son would be better protected from blows to the head if they wore helmets painted with soybean oil and decorated with two-dimensional stickers. The helmets were already being used by most major college programs at the time and so they were able to adopt this new technology easily.
Today, nearly all NFL players wear helmets with stickers on them. In fact, since 2008, no player has ever been allowed to wear a helmet without one of these decorative accessories.
During this same period, several other schools have tried out helmet stickers, but only Ohio State and Michigan have continued to use them regularly.
Florida State introduced the style in 1973 and has used them every year since then. The stickers usually feature a large FSU logo along with some sort of slogan or message directed at opposing defenses.
NFL players and coaches are wearing helmet decals and badges to recognize systemic racism victims, police brutality victims, and social justice heroes. The campaign was created by artist Kehinde Andrews and has received support from many other artists and athletes.
Decals that have been approved by league officials include "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe," and "Hands Up Don't Shoot." Players are allowed only one badge per game and they can be any color. The NFL has not announced what specific designs will be available in the future.
In 2014, then-Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis was given the privilege of giving out the first official badge. He selected "We Got Him" by hip hop group Jurassic 5 because it included his name in its lyrics.
Andrews has also designed a banner that will be displayed during the national anthem prior to every NFL game. It features 14 stars, which is the number commonly used to represent racism deaths in America, with each star representing one death. The banner is expected to be unveiled later this month.
Decals and badges will be available online at www.ChangeTheName.com beginning October 15. Customers will be able to vote for their favorite designs.