HOUSTON – Every Wednesday, Doug Brotherton and his team have a discussion on a topic at The Village School.
They call it Wisdom Wednesday.
The most recent discussion centered on Alabama high school star Maori Davenport and her situation.
“It led to a great team discussion,” Brotherton said. “At the end, I asked the girls if they wanted to do something. They said, ‘yes’, and we have used this as an opportunity to teach our players how to respectfully use our platform, within athletics.”
Davenport (Rutgers-commit) has been in national conversations on her being declared ineligible for her senior year by the Alabama High School Athletic Association over what has turned out to be an administrative error by USA Basketball.
Last summer Davenport played for the USA Basketball 18U team in Mexico City. As a part of being selected for the team, USA Basketball “routinely provides a small stipend to players spending their summers playing for their country” according to an ESPN.com article.
According to the ESPN article, the NCAA allows this but is subject to each players state rules. USA Basketball normally contacts each state association before the check for $857 is sent.
In this instance someone forgot to call the AHSAA. Davenport got the check, cashed it but when she found out the error immediately returned the money to USA Basketball.
Despite this, the No. 15-ranked player in the 2019 HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings – espnW 100 has remained ruled ineligible for her senior season at Charles Henderson High School.
“If you’ve heard about that situation it’s really close to our hearts as basketball players and just as people that are conciseness about that situation,” The Village School senior captain Kennedy Donovan said in a video posted to the school's athletics twitter account that has garnered more than 21,000 views. “Especially as a senior I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”
This topic has sparked national outrage, including from ESPN’s Jay Bilas and Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins.
“It was sort of this bizarre and frankly unreasonable interpretation of things,” Bilas said on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “The one thing that is undisputed here is Maori Davenport is innocent here. Completely innocent. She has handled herself with nothing but dignity and grace, while the other adults frankly have made fools of themselves.”
With the national conversation, The Village School players wanted to show their support for Davenport.
“We contacted TAPPS (the governing body of private schools in Texas) and our school administration for approval to move forward,” Brotherton said. “Lastly, I called the athletic director and coach at St. Pius X. They loved the idea and wanted to join in.
“Last night, we decorated 30 shirts to wear during warm-ups tonight. I am really proud of our team, as they have been fantastic throughout the process.”
VYPE Houston contacted TAPPS and St. Pius X administration for comments on the t-shirts but the phone calls were not immediately returned.
For The Village School sophomore Jada Malone, who is ranked No. 24 in the 2021 HoopGurlz Recruiting Rankings – Terrific 25, because she played with Davenport during the USA Basketball trials last summer.
“For me personally this hits close to home,” Malone said. “I went to USA trials with her and I watched her play and she’s an amazing player. I look up to her. We just here believe that she should play.”
Both teams will wear the t-shirts during pregame warmups for their 6 p.m. game on Friday night. After the game, Brothern said they will put the shirts back on and take a picture with both teams to show their support.
“We shared the social media comments with the team, and wanted to make sure to do this in a respectful manner,” Brotherton said. “The t-shirts allow our players to take a stand, without taking away from the actual game.”
Athletes using their platforms to send a message aren’t new.
In the NBA players have been known to wear t-shirts in pregame warmups to raise awareness on social issues.
In November, players for the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Haws wore black shirts saying “Enough” on the front to bring attention to gun violence in America.
Seeing athletes take a stand on a national stage is seen all over social media when it happens. In a day and age where students are always on social media, Brotherton said this is a good opportunity to teach them how to respectfully use their athletic platform and social media presence in the same way.
“With social media being at the fingertips of every young person, our hope is that our student-athletes have a better understanding for following the right process and consider others when using our platform to make a statement,” he said. “Furthermore, our Athletic Department's theme for the year is Servant Leadership.
“We are proud that our students are putting this on display and using their voice to support other student-athletes.”
What’s crazy is the exact same situation happened with another player in Illinois.
According to Bilas, Anaya Peoples (Notre Dame-commit) accepted the check like Davenport did. Peoples cashed the check but sent it back just like Davenport did. The Illinois Athletic Association believed that was good enough and ruled her eligble.
UPDATE (11:17 a.m. - Friday): Pike County Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan granted an emergency motion on Friday morning and ruled that Davenport can play in tonight's game against Carroll.
First reported by AL.com - READ FULL STORY HERE
UPDATE (11:567 a.m. - Friday): VYPE confirmed with The Village School coach Doug Brotherton that the teams will still wear the "Let Maori Play" t-shirts prior to tonight's game and hopes "the AHSAA will do the right thing."