The Tennessee football team has been vocal amid nation-wide protests against racial injustice since this past offseason.
Both players and coaches participated in rallies and protests on and off UT’s campus this summer, putting the program in the national spotlight and helping lead the way in collegiate athletes speaking up on social issues. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt wanted to carry that message on to the field this season by having the Vols wear black uniforms against Kentucky as a show of support for social justice.
According to Pruitt on Monday, those uniforms will not be worn this season due to a contract issue with Nike, the uniform and apparel provider for UT athletics since 2015. Black jerseys certainly could be seen on the field in future seasons.
“You know what, I learned a really good lesson as a head football coach,” Pruitt said during his Monday presser. “You know, there are contracts with people that do our apparel that we wear. It’s something (wearing black jerseys) that our players and our staff want to do. It’s something that we’re not going to be able to from a standpoint of a contract.
“But we’re going to find ways within our organization to raise money to support local institutions. We’re not going to able to do it this game, but Nike guaranteed us from now on that we would be able to have black jerseys, black uniforms. It’s something we’ve worked hard within our organization and our administration to get done.”
Pruitt said back in June that Tennessee planned to break out the black uniforms for the Vols game against Kentucky, which at the time was originally scheduled for Nov. 7 at Neyland Stadium. The uniforms would then be auctioned off to raise money and support for organizations in and around Knoxville that fight for social justice and racial equality in the community.
Tennessee last wore black uniforms on Oct. 31, 2009 in a home game against South Carolina. The Vols last wore alternate uniforms, the “smokey grays” against Nebraska in the 2016 Music City Bowl. Those uniforms were chosen for that game to honor the victims of the November 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires that killed 14 people and displaced thousands of others.
Tennessee has not worn alternate uniforms since Pruitt was hired in 2017, but have seen a few minor changes to its traditional uniforms.
The Vols and Kentucky will kickoff on Saturday at Neyland Stadium at noon. The game will air on ESPN or the SEC Network.