Fourteen Words

by Ryan Krzykowski

You’ve probably heard something about athletes protesting over the past few months.  For some reason, ESPN still lists every NFL player who kneels during the anthem each week.  Why?  Are they just looking for news?  Are they hoping these athletes will be respected for taking a stand?  Are they hoping they’ll be vilified for disrespecting the flag and our country’s veterans?  I really don’t know.

But I know this — I absolutely loved reading about the Purdue men’s basketball team and their approach to “protest”, which wasn’t a protest at all, but rather a call to awareness and understanding.  

ESPN.com tells the story of how the Purdue program’s “ops” guy, Elliot Bloom, meets with some players regularly for non-basketball related discussion.  (Sounds like it could be a Bible study or something like that, but the article really doesn’t say.)  Anyhow, Coach Bloom suggested to the players that they each wear a unique word on the front of their warm up shirts in an effort to make a statement about what they value as a program.  As I read the article and saw the list of words, it struck me that this was transformational coaching at a high level.  Even leading these men through the process of choosing their words was meaningful, and then having them be displayed on their chests in a way that was going to quietly draw attention and invite questions?  That is powerful.

For the record, here are the 14 words that the Boilermakers are wearing on their shirts:

Compassion. Empathy. Equality. Forgiveness. Friendship. Humility. Justice. Love. Loyalty. Peace. Respect. Togetherness. Tolerance. Unity.

Fantastic stuff.  Bravo, Elliot Bloom.  Well done, Purdue Basketball.