The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) has approved a rule that will allow student-athletes, including swimmers, to wear patches on their uniforms to highlight commemorative events, memorials, and social justice issues.
In some sports, patches were previously banned from appearing on uniforms. However, the topic was not specifically addressed in the rule books for most sports.
Under the new rule, student-athletes will be given two spots on their uniforms for the patches.
The first patch may be located on the front or the sleeve of the uniform and must not exceed 2¼ square inches. Additionally, the patch must be approved by the school or conference and the same patch must be worn by all members of a team if they choose to participate.
In contrast, the second patch will be placed on the back of the uniform, around the area where the player’s name is traditionally located. Although this patch must also be approved by the player’s school or conference, the patches do not have to be identical for all participating members of a team, leaving room for student-athletes to showcase their own causes.
In swimming and diving, the new rule will allow athletes to display a patch on either their suit or cap. If a swimmer chooses to display a patch on their suit, it must be permeable in accordance with NCAA rule 3.1.d.3.
The rule change comes after recent protests following the death of George Floyd, who has become the latest focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement. Amid calls for social justice from many prominent athletes, including former NCAA superstar Simone Manuel, the organization has taken many steps in support of the movement including encouraging all member schools to give students Election Day off, recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday, and banning all championship events from occurring in states where the Confederate flag is prominent.
Many sporting leagues around the world have taken up the cause of the Black Lives Matter movemement. The NBA and the English Premier League (soccer) have both allowed players and teams to put statements about social justice on their uniforms as part of their restarted seasons after the coronavirus pandemic.