OKC Thunder's Chris Paul promoting HBCUs with 'sneaker tour' during NBA restart
Posted By: Elynor Moss on August 09, 2020 |
Composition Creator: Joe Mussatto
Chris Paul wore a mask embroidered with the letters HBCU, but it muffled his voice Wednesday night as he addressed reporters after routing the Lakers.
“Shoot, I can’t even hear myself,” said Paul, as he removed the mask.
But his message wasn’t lost.
Throughout the season restart, Paul has worn more than masks to promote Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Paul has represented three HBCUs by sporting customized Jordan sneakers in the Thunder’s first three games in the Orlando bubble.
“HBCUs are very special to me,” Paul said, “and I’m gonna keep championing them as much as I can.”
Each pair of shoes has incorporated the logo and colors of an HBCU with the message “Can’t give up now” and “#Breonna Taylor.”
First up were blue and gold sneakers for North Carolina A&T State. Next was a maroon and white pair for Alabama A&M. Paul picked Howard University against the Lakers.
Howard’s Bison logo was fixed to the heel of the pewter and blue shoes, and Paul wore a Howard letterman jacket and Howard basketball shorts before and after the game.
“So, about this HBCU sneaker tour … who should be next?” Paul tweeted Wednesday.
He included a phone number with a 336 area code in the tweet. It’s the area code of Paul’s hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina — home of Winston-Salem State, an HBCU and the alma mater of Paul’s parents.
Paul, who went to Wake Forest as a prized basketball recruit, is one of the only members of his family who didn’t attend an HBCU.
The “336” number Paul shared is also the area code of Greensboro, home of North Carolina A&T, the largest HBCU in the nation.
“He really holds a special place in the hearts of our students, faculty and administration,” said Todd Simmons, associate vice chancellor for university relations.
“We’re so appreciative of his involvement with A&T, which has been fairly extensive.”
Paul, who wore a gold “Ayantee” T-shirt last Saturday, launched an internship pipeline earlier this year between NC A&T and Live Nation Urban. His goal was to introduce students to opportunities in the live music industry.
Paul, working with Harvard professor Anita Elberse, also started a Business of Sports Media and Entertainment course at NC A&T this spring.
Kevin James, the dean of NC A&T’s College of Business and Economics, said Paul approached the school with the idea after attending his cousin’s graduation ceremony.
“One of the things I love about it is Chris Paul and his foundation are being strategic and intentional,” James said. “This is not just a fun little thing to do.”
What started as a pilot course will continue this fall semester.
“He looked at the lack of diversity on the business side of sports and entertainment,” James said. “And understanding that a lot of African American kids coming up, they see the entertainer, they see the athlete, and they don’t really have reason to think about the fact that there’s a whole array of business and professional jobs behind all of those operations that they can participate in without being an athlete or entertainer.”
Paul’s involvement with HBCUs extends beyond North Carolina A&T. The Chris Paul Family Foundation donated $50,000 to Winston-Salem State’s athletic department last April.
In July, Paul announced that he’s producing a documentary series that will follow HBCU basketball teams over the course of a season.
“With the current racial awakening in our country prompting young athletes to look at where they play,” Paul said, “it’s now more important than ever to shine a light on HBCUs and showcase their value in sports and society.”
Paul is shining a light through his sneakers. The Jazz and Lakers games, when he represented NC A&T and Howard, were on national television.
“We have all these accolades and a lot of people don’t know our name,” James said. “Just to create visibility, to trigger people to look us up and see what we have, is tremendous.”
But behind Paul's sneakers are actionable steps.
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