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Deion Sanders is trying to change the culture at underappreciated historically Black colleges and he is willing to pay for it

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Deion Sanders.
Deion Sanders.
  • Deion Sanders wants the Southwestern Athletic Conference to add players' names to their jerseys.

  • The Jackson State coach sees the change as a way to increase exposure of HBCU football players.

  • Sanders said he'd "take care of it for the whole SWAC if they do it."

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders is determined to increase the recognition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities - HBCUs - through his role as head coach of Jackson State's football team.

After the Tigers' first game of the season - a 7-6 victory over Florida A&M in Sunday's Orange Blossom Classic - the NFL legend identified one way to do so within his team's own Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC): adding players' names to the backs of their jerseys.

"That's the kind of stuff we take for granted," Sanders said, per The Mississippi Clarion Ledger. "I don't. I'm very detailed. That guy worked his butt off, did what he had to do, changed his whole composite of his thought process. We could at least put his darn name on the back of his jersey."

Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders and running back Santee Marshall.
Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders and running back Santee Marshall at the 2021 Orange Blossom Classic. AP Photo/Jim Rassol

It's a small change that could have a massive impact for the athletes, who are eligible to cash in on name, image, and likeness as of this season. Increasing individual players' recognizability on the field by adding their name to their uniform is a fairly straightforward way to increase their marketability.

Plus, as Sanders noted after the game, players' friends and loved ones would almost certainly be in favor of the change.

"Don't you think his mom and them want to see the baby name on the back of the jerseys?" Sanders said. "Don't you think his siblings, his friends, his family, his loved ones?"

Deion Sanders.
Deion Sanders.

By Sanders' estimation, it wouldn't take much to add players' names to their uniforms. He surmised that the extra stitching would cost "an extra $5 a jersey" - a price he's personally willing to pay.

"I'll take care of it for the whole SWAC if they do it," Sanders said, then looked to SMAC Entertainment CEO Constance Schwartz-Morini, his manager, for reassurance.

"Constance will help," he then declared. "You have already blessed the whole team with suits."

Two Jackson State players show off their new suits.
Two Jackson State players show off their new suits. Ahmon Lott

Sanders tapped Schwartz-Morini and her SMAC Entertainment co-founder, fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, to help outfit Jackson State's players and coaching staff with custom suits ahead of the Orange Blossom Classic. Sanders, Schwartz-Morini, and Strahan described the effort as a way to increase the spotlight on "often overlooked and underfunded" HBCU football programs.

"We're very detailed with the little things," Sanders said, per the Clarion Ledger. "And our kids deserve that, don't they?"

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