Scott Lipscomb Data News Weekly Contributor
Former 18-year NFL veteran and 5-time MVP Peyton Manning is using his retirement to highlight HBCUs in his birth city – New Orleans, and across the Gulf Coast. During the 2020 Capital One Golf Classic over the Thanksgiving weekend, he outfitted his golf cart with the shields of Louisiana HBCUs: Dillard University, Xavier University, Southern University at New Orleans, Southern University of Baton Rouge and Grambling University. He is part of a growing number of retired and current professional athletes investing in HBCU Athletic Programs and student athletes.
“It was great to see the University’s brand featured on multiple national media outlets,” said Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes, Dillard’s Athletic Director, who noted that Manning had worn a Dillard hat during the tournament.
Manning’s gesture is backed by a donation of endowed scholarships to six HBCUs in Louisiana and Tennessee through his Peyback Foundation this year. The 3-year commitment will be used to support students and have been named after notable public figures connected to each institution.
“We are grateful to Peyton and Ashley Manning for their generous gift to Dillard University,” said Dr. Walter Kimbrough, Dillard’s President, in a statement. “As a New Orleanian, Peyton knows Dillard’s value in the community and nation. Having it named for Dr. [Michael] Lomax is a nice touch to a great scholarship gift,” Kimbrough said.
Xavier’s endowed scholarship will be named after long-time President and President-Emeritus Dr. Norman C. Francis.
“The University and especially the Athletics Department enjoy our connections with professional athletes and celebrities, specifically Peyton Manning in this instance,” said Jason Horn, Xavier’s Athletic Director. “The Manning’s are a staple in the New Orleans community and it is great to have them support the local HBCUs. It was definitely great to see Peyton wearing the Xavier cap during The Match Golf Event in November,” Horn said.
In addition to football, former Pelicans player Jrue Holiday pledged the remainder of his 2020 salary toward combating systemic racism. Holiday selected Xavier University as a recipient of a donation through the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Justice Fund, which pledged $5.3 million towards supporting Black-owned businesses, charities, and educational institutions.
“Xavier is grateful to be a recipient of this award from the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Justice Fund,” said Xavier President Reynold Verret, in a statement. “Through its support of our mission to educate leaders who seek a more just and humane society, this act of generosity advances the cause of social justice across the nation,” Verret said.
Current HBCU student athletes in the city said they are encouraged that professional athletes are supporting their programs and their institutions this year. It demonstrates their belief that HBCUs can not only educate but develop future professional athletes as well.
“Personally, I think there’s a stigma that HBCUS are not as strong as [predominantly White institutions]. So, when I see pro-athletes use their platform to shed light on HBCUs, it’s heartwarming,” said Alana Faust, a freshman volleyball player at Xavier. Faust, who was the league most-valuable player for her high school team during her junior and senior year said she is encouraged to see more star athletes consider HBCUs for their college career, just like top five-star college basketball recruit Makur Maker, who chose to play at Howard University this year.
“I hope to leave a legacy at Xavier by showing that HBCUs have just as much talent if not more as other schools and how they are a safe space for Blacks,” Faust said.
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