Ohio State football social justice push continues with helmet decal, early voting

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ryan Stamper, Ohio State’s assistant athletic director for player development, worked with a group of football players to determine how the team would address social justice this season.

Social justice has been a cause for the Ohio State football team in recent years, and it jumped to the forefront earlier this year after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black citizens.

That will continue during the 2020 season. Though it hasn’t been finalized, it is almost certain that the Buckeyes will wear a decal with the word “EQUALITY” in black capital letters on the back bottom of their helmets.

Coach Ryan Day said the decal grew out of discussion between Ryan Stamper, OSU’s assistant athletic director for player development, and the team’s leadership council.

“We're really proud of our players,” Day said in a conference call Tuesday. “This is something that they've led from the inside out, something they feel strong about. And I think, like I've said from the beginning, it's the job of our coaches and the head coach to advocate for the players and their voices.”

Day said a final decision will be made by late this week.

Stamper said he and the leadership council considered several ideas and settled on “equality.”

“One thing we wanted to do is have one message that was something the entire team agreed with,” Stamper told The Dispatch. “Meeting with the leadership committee and others, that was something that everybody felt was a strong statement and word for our team and what we believe in, and we’re going put it on the helmet and pretty much show the country with everything that's been going on.

“We've done a lot, from the post on Twitter after the George Floyd (killing) to Kneel for Nine protests that we did throughout the athletic department. We constantly had these conversations.”

On Monday, Stamper arranged for a bus to take at least 25 players who are registered in Franklin County to early vote at the Board of Elections on Morse Road. Last week, he said, the entire team registered to vote, locally or absentee, after a visit from three representatives from the student organization OSU Votes.

Quarterback Justin Fields didn’t vote in person Monday because he’s registered to vote in Georgia. He said he’ll vote absentee.

Fields said the players’ increased motivation to vote grew in part from the effectiveness of the push he and others made to fight to play this season after the Big Ten postponed it in August.

“I think as a team, we all know how important it is to vote, of course,” Fields said. “We learned throughout the quarantine how important our voices are and what effect our voices may have on the world (so we’re) just encouraging everyone out there to go out and vote.

“I think a lot of people might have had that mindset before — I know I did personally that my vote wouldn't matter — so this year is actually my first year voting. I'm just excited for the opportunity that we get to make a change. I feel like a lot of players were taking it for granted so I'm glad that we're seeing change and trying to make change by voting.”

Added Day, “The guys have done a great job with that. It’s something that some of the guys in the team felt really, really strongly about.”

The NCAA has made Election Day on Nov. 3 a mandatory day off.