The North Carolina women's basketball team looked a bit different when they trotted out onto the floor of Carmichael Arena for a shootaround ahead of Sunday's game versus Wake Forest.
Rather than their typical grey practice shirts, the team donned white tees emblazoned with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. — "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." The back of the shirt read "BLACK HISTORY MONTH" in bold letters.
The custom-made warmups were part of the team's Black History Month Celebration, which was a collaboration with the Carolina Black Caucus. Between quarters, the team honored three "outstanding community members" — former Carolina Union Director Crystal King, former player Camille Little and educator Lillian Lee.
"It means a lot to us as players," junior guard Deja Kelly said. "Sometimes there can be times where across the country, you know, some student-athletes don't feel seen, don't feel heard."
Kelly said that is not the case with the UNC women's basketball team, which frequently highlights issues of social justice during games and on its social media. Head coach Courtney Banghart has encouraged her players to use their voices for positive change since she took over the program in 2019.
Banghart dispels the myth that sports is no place for politics. In fact, she argues, women's basketball is the perfect platform for such activism.
"I'm uniquely positioned because I think we play a sport that has some of the best diversity across the board, not just racially, but socially, economically, interests and all that," Banghart said after Sunday's game. "We coach really unique people all the time from different parts of the country and whatnot, and if they are an example of what's to come in the future, then we're going to be alright."
On Sunday, those "future leaders" had a chance to honor the past.
Lillian Lee, who was honored before the start of the fourth quarter, dedicated her life to a career in education. She was one of the first teachers at UNC's Hospital School and later was an administrator in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School system. She knows how revered athletes are at UNC and said they "have an obligation to stand up for what's right."