Corrections and Clarifications: The title of this article has been revised to reflect that East Anchorage High School was allowed to wear athletic clothing that contained the phrase “Black Lives Matter” during the Alaska State Tournament.
East Anchorage High School has one of the best boys’ basketball programs in the state of Alaska.
It also features a group of young men who are dedicated to making change in their community.
East Anchorage players have worn the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on their gear since the start of their season. While carrying the message of unity and equality, East Anchorage restored an undefeated regular season.
However, after winning his conference tournament last week, a formal complaint was filed with the Alaska Sports Activities Association (ASAA), according to David Bullock, an Alaskan native currently living in Los Angeles and CEO of 907 Agency. The claim was that Black Lives Matter is a political statement and the team should have to cover the phrase during the state tournament.
Disappointed with criticism of the team’s efforts to unify the community, Damarion Delaney, one of East Anchorage’s star players, took to Twitter to shed some light on the situation. Fortunately, the ASAA ruled in favor of East Anchorage and allowed them to continue wearing their full uniforms.
I heard East was called out in a complaint about us young men of our choice getting “black life counts” in the backbone of our pre-game shooting shirts. and we played our first game in our last game in these warm-ups. inequality and injustice are very visible.
– damarion delaney (@ damariond2) March 23, 2021
Delaney’s Twitter thread caught the attention of Bullock, who immediately took action. He reached out to Puma in an attempt to gain additional support for East Anchorage’s efforts. Puma responded by gifting every player and coach in East Anchorage a pair of black sneakers, which Bullock gifted the team hours before their 4A Alaska State Championship game on Saturday.
“The Twitter feed received hundreds of retweets and favorites, which caught my eye,” Bullock told USA Today High School Sports. “I saw this as an attempt to silence the movement. I contacted Puma Basketball to support these young men. In response, Puma sent a pair of black shoes to every player and coach on the team, which I delivered to them a few hours before the state championship.
East Anchorage ultimately finished a perfect season by winning their state title match, but their players won more than just a trophy. Like it or not, East Anchorage has left a profound impact on its community – an impact that will play a major role in how it combats social and racial injustices in the future.
“Efforts to silence this team’s equality message were unsuccessful and ultimately amplified their voices,” Bullock said. “Not only did this group of young men stay true to their beliefs, they finished a perfect season and became Alaska State Champions.
Update: The claim and circumstances presented by David Bullock have been contested by the Anchorage School District. Below is an email from Alan Brown, Director of Communications and Community Outreach at ASD, which was sent to USA TODAY High School Sports for clarification:
During the 2020/21 high school basketball season, the Bettye Davis East High School boys’ basketball team wore warm up shirts with the words Black Lives Matter printed on the back. Last week at the regional tournament, the school was made aware of a parent concern specifically whether the warm-ups were being paid for with district funds.
When administrators at Bettye Davis East High School were made aware of the parents’ concern, they asked the team not to wear warm-ups while a district exam could be done.
After reviewing the situation, the district quickly determined that the warm-ups had not violated any district or ASAA policies, and that the warm-ups had not created any disruption during the season. Additionally, the district learned that the Bettye Davis East High School Booster Club had purchased the shirts for all of the team members.
The district reviewed ASD policies on appropriate student dress, as well as student speech and expression. The district also reviewed ASAA policies governing the wear and appearance of sports uniforms. The ASAA policy provides very specific guidelines on what can be worn on jerseys and match uniforms; however, these policies do not apply to warm-ups.
The whole process took about a day and the District immediately informed Bettye Davis East High School of the decision to allow the team to continue wearing the warm-ups as they had done for every game this season. The team did not play any games during the review process.
ASD would like to congratulate the entire Bettye Davis East boys basketball team on their unbeaten season and state championship victory this weekend.