Florida A&M University, one of the nation's top HBCUs, will become the first school to have its sports teams don LeBron James-branded apparel, the school announced Thursday.
Under the six-year agreement beginning July 1, all 14 of Florida A&M's teams, as well as its marching band, will be outfitted in Nike uniforms, apparel and footwear, with the footwear reportedly designed specifically for the university. Nike has been Florida A&M's apparel supplier for more than 20 years.
According to Nike, the FAMU basketball teams will have LeBron James signature-branded uniforms, with the Los Angeles Lakers star's crown logo.
James himself showed off what the shoes will look like in a tweet teasing the announcement, showing the "FAMU" LeBron 18 PE shoes he wore on Tuesday.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 3, 2021
From the school:
"FAMU is an elite institution with a rich tradition of first, and our student-athletes deserve a student-athlete experience that is second to none. As we transition into a new athletic conference and the opportunity to engage apparel partners, the 23-year relationship with Nike and their commitment to culture, diversity, inclusion, and innovation has never been clearer," said Vice President and Director of Athletics, Kortne Gosha.
"My executive team and I are focused on setting a new standard and our top priority is to align with the best quality and most innovative products, brands and resources that position our student-athletes and coaches to compete for championships. This partnership allowed us to reimagine, challenge the norms of our industry and be the model for leveling the playing field with the most significant investment in the American Jewels known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities by any footwear and apparel company."
James' partnership with Nike goes back to when he was drafted in 2003, and his personal logo was created in 2010 when he re-upped with the company. This is the first time his logo will appear on a college team's uniforms, real estate usually occupied by the primary logos of Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and the rest.
Of course, a personal logo on a college team isn't unprecedented, and that's one more way James is following in Michael Jordan's footsteps.
Jordan's "Air Jordan" logo has been a cultural icon going back to the 1980s, but it wasn't until 2016 that the logo started appearing on college uniforms, starting with the University of Michigan. Many other schools, including Jordan's alma mater at the University of North Carolina and past rivals like Georgetown, now wear Air Jordan uniforms. The trend has even reached the NBA, where all 30 teams now have "Statement Edition" uniforms bearing the logo. Including the Detroit Pistons.
James' logo landing on one school's uniforms is obviously small compared to all that, but it could also be a road map as James tries to increase his business and cultural profile before and after retirement.
Increasing sports investments in HBCUs
Florida A&M receiving this kind of treatment is the latest instance of some major names and companies trying to uplift the schools on the sports scene.
Nike's released noted the company is focusing on deepening its relationships with HBCUs, while the NBA has announced $3 million will be going to the institutions through the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. Chris Paul and Stephen Curry are also among those who have supported and partnered with HBCUs.
The same day the Florida A&M deal was announced, CBS announced it will soon start broadcasting a showcase for HBCU basketball players during Final Four Weekend.
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