FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – To continue the dialogue on racial justice, Purdue Fort Wayne athletics and the Horizon League have teamed up to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” alongside the National Anthem.
Also referred as the “Black National Anthem,” the song represents the past struggles of the Black community and a hopeful vision that racial justice is possible.
The idea was first pitched by Cleveland State Head Men’s Basketball Coach Dennis Gates, who has a prominent role within the National Association of Basketball Coaches. After gaining additional support from student-athletes, Horizon League Commissioner Julie Roe Lach and the conference’s athletic directors agreed to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” prior to every conference championship this season.
This is one of the first known instances of a Division I conference electing to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as part of pregame ceremonies.
“We want to be innovative, and we welcome the idea of being pioneers in any way we can or should,” Commissioner Roe Lach said. “I’m very comfortable if we’re way outside the pack on this.”
The decision to play this song is one of many moves made by Horizon League student-athletes, coaches and leadership to address racial justice through the conference’s “OneHL” initiative, which was launched in response to the death of George Floyd.
Horizon League student-athletes, including Purdue Fort Wayne Men’s Basketball Player Bryce Waterman, formed a “OneHL” working group to brainstorm ideas on how to address racial injustice in their own communities. Some of the initiatives include registering student-athletes to vote last fall and a video series on social justice issues.
Purdue Fort Wayne’s athletic department has gone a step further, electing to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” prior to every home contest this season. Waterman is thrilled to see “Lift Every Voice and Sing” being played beyond basketball games.
“I think it’s a very important thing, and [the song] has a very great value, so it’s a great thing to hear before every game,” Waterman said.
Commissioner Roe Lach is proud of how this decision has worked in tandem with the conference’s “OneHL” initiative.
“The fact that all of our sports are embracing this song, and the significance of this song, speaks to the strides we’re starting to make,” she said.
The Horizon League originally planned on playing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” through the end of the academic year, but Roe Lach has not ruled out continuing this indefinitely.