College athletes now can wear social justice statements on uniforms after NCAA approval

Joel Coleman

Mississippi State student-athletes might soon be expressing themselves in new ways as they perform.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel has approved rules allowing athletes in all sports the opportunity to wear patches on their uniforms for commemorative and memorial purposes, as well as to support social justice issues.

Here are the details from the NCAA's media release:

Panel members, who met by videoconference last week, reaffirmed and expanded existing rules, which will now allow student-athletes two places on the uniform, one on the front and one on the back, to express support and voice their opinions.

The patch on the front, which most sports already allowed, as authorized by the school or conference, may be a commemorative/memorial patch (names, mascots, nicknames, logos and marks) intended to celebrate or memorialize people, events or other causes.

The patch must not exceed 2¼ square inches and must be placed on the front or sleeve of the uniform. While not all team members are required to wear the patch, they must be identical for those who choose to wear them.

The second location is on the back of the uniform where the player name is traditionally located and, as authorized by the school or conference, will allow names/words intended to celebrate or memorialize people, events or other causes. The names or words may vary by team member.

The ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also has now resulted in the NCAA changing or waiving some playing rules for the 2020-21 seasons. The changes are designed to "help to mitigate risk of contamination and enhance a safer return to play for all participants without affecting competitive equity."

Here are further details of those changes, including in football, only one captain from each team participating in the coin toss and the team areas on the sidelines expanding by 20 yards:

In football, team areas will be expanded to the 15-yard lines. Under the current rule, the team area was between the 25-yard lines.

Also, the coin toss participants will be limited to two officials and one captain from each team. The current rule allowed up to four game captains and additional people such as media members or ceremonial captains to be in proximity of the coin toss.

In men’s and women’s soccer, players ejected for spitting at an opponent will have to serve a two-game penalty. The current rule called for an ejection and a one-game suspension.

In women’s volleyball, the teams will remain on the same bench during the entire match rather than switch benches after each set.

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