Arizona Hosts First Ever Unity Game

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Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Jalea Bennett (33) drives into the key and past Colorado defense during the game this Friday, Jan. 19, 2018.

The Arizona women’s basketball team hosted the first Unity Game on Friday, Jan. 19 when they played the University of Colorado.

The Unity Game is a result of Arizona’s recent partnership with The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality(RISE). 

RISE was founded by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross in 2015. It consists of “professional sports leagues, organizations, athletes, educators, media networks and sports professionals using sports to bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality,” according to their website risetowin.org. Many Arizona student athletes attended the Unity Game as fans to see the spectacle.

“I think it’s awesome that RISE teamed up with women’s basketball to hold this event,“ Arizona gymnast Lauryn Mattson said. “The whole point of RISE is to bring people together and we were able to come together as a team, along with other teams, to support women’s basketball. It was a great way to support our school and women’s basketball team,” 

Members from Arizona’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) handed out 600 t-shirts and bracelets to fans before the game on Friday. Many fans were excited about being a part of the Unity Game.

“The opportunity to interact with RISE again was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Sammy Morrison, an Arizona football player and co-president of SAAC.  “Their inclusion in not only our athletic department, but also our school community truly shows how much they care about equality. 

Morrison also said that it gave him a chance to connect deeper with the Tucson community. 

“I was able to sit next to athletes who I’ve never spoken to and cheer on our Wildcats as a united front,” Morrison said. “By passing out shirts before the game, my fellow student athletes and I were able to interact with people of the community in a way I’ve never done before.”

RISE also provided a photo booth for fans to take pictures in, with signs that said “Wildcats For Equality” and “Arizona Wildcats United We Stand”.

Two employees from RISE came to Tucson to help run the photo booth for the day and organize the Sideline Racism Challenge, which was started by members of the Detroit Pistons that same day.

The Pistons encouraged people to run back and forth, from sideline to sideline, on any sports playing surface and to take a pledge to end discrimination. After the run and pledge, participants named other people to do the challenge and posted their videos online.

During halftime, Arizona student athletes Olivia Macdonald (beach volleyball),Malcolm Holland (football)and Travis Thorne (cross country) participated in the challenge and were joined by school mascot Wilma.

RISE has also partnered with USC, and their women’s basketball will be hosting the next Unity Game on Sunday, Jan. 21 when they play UC Berkeley.


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