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Student-athletes release Unity Pledge, logo

Divisional SAACs, Student-Athlete Engagement Committee collaborate to continue push for change

The three divisional Student-Athlete Advisory Committees and the Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee recently collaborated to create a national Unity Pledge and logo, symbolic gestures to continue generating stronger unity among the NCAA’s 1,100-plus schools and nearly 500,000 student-athletes. 

The four groups of student-athlete leaders released the pledge and logo Oct. 23.

The logo includes three different colored hands holding one another’s wrists inside a circle with “United As One” at the bottom. The mark was sent to all NCAA schools in the form of a patch to consider placing on uniforms.

The three SAAC chairs — Braly Keller for Division III, a former Nebraska Wesleyan athlete; Alex Shillow for Division II, a football player at Texas A&M-Commerce; and Ethan Good for Division I, a former men’s basketball player at Bowling Green — joined Colby Pepper, a former men’s soccer player at Division III Covenant and a member of the Board of Governors SAEC, in leading the effort to create the pledge and the corresponding mark. The four enlisted feedback from their respective committee members, too. 

The three SAACs comprise one representative from each of their division’s conferences, as well as some independent and at-large representatives in Division II and Division III. The Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee includes three student-athletes from each division’s SAAC, a Board of Governors member and a Division III Management Council member. 

Keller, Shillow, Good and Pepper released the following statement regarding the Unity Pledge: “The Unity Pledge has been months in the making. Through the challenges that student-athletes have faced in the COVID-19 pandemic, Division I SAAC, Division II SAAC, Division III SAAC and the Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee have come together to lead and advocate for our nearly half-million peers across the country. In light of the social injustice and hate our country has experienced, we wanted a unified statement written by student-athletes, for student-athletes. We encourage student-athletes, coaches and administrators to use this statement in your conference, campus and with your teams as we push forward for change as a collective group, united as one.”

The pledge debuted in a video Oct. 23 on the social media pages of the national SAACs. It was also the topic of the 31st episode of the NCAA Social Series, where a SAAC representative from each division discussed the Unity Pledge and its importance. 

On the NCAA Social Series podcast, the three student-athletes — Shillow, Pepper and Vedika Anand, a Division I SAAC member and former women’s tennis player at Wagner — discussed the pledge line by line. The theme of the conversation centered on bringing people together to strive to better their campus, communities and beyond. 

“It is essentially (about) everyone buying into this and everyone being together in this, and I think people are more willing to do that, given the current circumstances. This is the perfect time for us to launch this pledge, say this pledge to our student-athletes,” Anand, from New Delhi, India, said on the podcast. “It’s the right time. More than we know, student-athletes are ready to be together and to buy into this pledge.” 

Shillow echoed Anand’s thoughts and referenced the many student-athletes who had already stood up for unity and used their platforms to speak out against divisive actions and language this year as proof. 

“This is just a continuation of that. We want to empower the student-athletes that haven’t taken that stance just yet,” Shillow said. “We want to continue to support the student-athletes that already took that stance, and we want to continue to keep growing this unity push that we see across the entire landscape of the NCAA.” 

This week, student-athletes across the NCAA continued that effort through the third annual Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign. The campaign provided a platform for NCAA student-athletes to talk about why they believe diversity, inclusion and social justice are important and how engaging in all three areas can foster inclusive environments in athletics, on their campuses and in their communities.