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OU basketball: Wearing the jersey will be different after SAE video

Oklahoma opens postseason play Thursday night at the Big 12 Tournament with a lot of heavy issues hanging over it. Getting a postseason win for the first time under Lon Kruger. Building momentum for the NCAA Tournament. Beating its Bedlam rival.

But even with all that, the weightiest issue for the Sooners may be this — their game will be the first time a team from OU has played a televised game since the Sigma Alpha Epsilon video controversy broke. Since Sunday night, all of the headlines about Oklahoma and OU and Sooners have been about the mess stemming from that video.

It’s been ugly.

Thursday night, the Sooners have a chance to wear that OKLAHOMA across their chest and change the discussion a bit. Now, granted, one basketball game is not going to squash the issues of racism and bigotry and hatred that have bubbled up in recent days. Nor should it. I get that. But here’s what that game will do — it will give everyone a slightly different view of OU.

When people look out on the court, they will see a team of many colors and backgrounds. They will see Ryan Spangler, a country kid from Bridge Creek High School, and Buddy Hield, a native of a hard-scrabble area of Freeport, Bahamas. They will see Kruger, a Kansas native, coaching alongside Lew Hill, who grew up in the shadow of the Bronx. They will see black and white playing together, coaching together, celebrating together, huddling together.

After the Sooners’ practice on Monday, I asked a couple of players what it would be like to put on that crimson and cream jersey again in light of the events of this week.

“It's gonna be an honor,” center TaShawn Thomas said. “Ever since I've been here, it's been an honor to put on the Oklahoma jersey. I know about the history and to be able to keep carrying it on is something special for us.”

Spangler said, “I think our campus will be cheering for us. I think it'll get their mind off what's been going on.”

Again, this will not erase the issues that have stemmed from that SAE video. No sporting event has that kind of power.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be powerful in its own way.


Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›