US Vice President Kamala Harris was booed on Day 3 of the NCAA March Madness tournament in Des Moines, Iowa, as she watched her alma mater, Howard University, fall to college basketball powerhouse Kansas.
After graduating from a historically black college and university (HBCU) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and economics in 1986, Harris showed up at the booth at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday to see the Bison blast out by the Jayhawks, 68-96 with husband and second man Doug Emhoff. .
I mean, we’re here in Des Moines. “They’re a tough time, they work hard, they’re very disciplined and it’s a joy to watch them here at March Madness,” Harris said of Howard’s men’s basketball team in the second half. “There are many of us here, we love our school.”
And Howard University, I ran for my first office as a freshman representative and have always been a part of the Howard community. And I’m sure everyone who has a team understands what that means and the joy and commitment we have in tradition and loyalty to your team.
When the vice president was shown on a jumbotron in the arena, the boos faded from the round of applause she was given, according to the Associated Press. The crowd’s demographics may have played a factor in its reaction to seeing the former California senator on the arena’s video board.
Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, watch during the second half of the first-round college basketball game between Howard – Harris’ alma mater – and Kansas in the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Des, Moine, Iowa
Harris talked about her time at Howard, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1986, with TBS’s Allie LaForce from inside the Wells Fargo Arena.
Mixed reaction: Harris was booed and applauded when he was shown a jumbotron in the arena
Most of the fans who attended Thursday’s game were likely from either Kansas or Iowa, two states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, which may explain why Harris was booed when shown on the arena’s big screen.
More than half (53.1 percent) of Iowans voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, compared to 44.9 percent of the vote for Joe Biden.
Fans who hail from Kansas, another Republican state, may be behind the chorus of boos. Although Trump won the state with 56.18 percent of the vote in 2020, Biden’s vote share of 41.53 percent marks the highest for a Democratic presidential candidate since 2008 — among Biden’s best increases in a statewide election.
On Thursday, Harris also emphasized the importance of funding for HBCU’s athletic programs to shape the lives of our “current future leaders.”
These sports programs need to be well resourced because when you look at the coaches like the coaches on the two teams that are here, they invest in these students as a whole person, so yeah, it’s about helping them be the best and most they can be. Talented on the field. But, also outside the court, Harris told TBS’ Allie LaForce.
They are invested in these kids, they are invested in their education, they are thinking about their lives and all the things they bring to their time at school. And I admire these coaches for really investing in the current leaders of the future.
The vice president’s comments come a day after the commissioners of HBCU’s four major conferences — the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), Mideast Athletic Conference (MEAC), Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), and Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) — agreed to act. Together more closely partnering with professional sports leagues, including the NBA and NFL, to increase the value of HBCUs and send more athletes to the pros.
“We’re doing this collaboratively knowing that we have collective strength,” said Anthony Holloman, commissioner of the US Citizenship and Immigration Commission. “We know that when we play our conferences, we’re competitive, it’s a game, but on all other days we’re cheering each other on.”
With less state funding and fewer resources than the Power Five schools, historically black schools have a hard time recruiting the best athletes. Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals, with little uniformity in how they are applied across states, schools, and districts, have widened this gap.
Harris also emphasized the importance of funding HBCU athletic programs, such as the Howard Program
Another HBCU team already playing in the March Madness tournament this year is the Texas Southern Tigers, who lost to the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights on Wednesday.
Jackie McWilliams, who is in her tenth year as commissioner of the CIAA, an association of 12 Division II HBCUs, has seen the NIL make room for schools to help athletes turn their creativity into money.
The Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC), an HBCU league in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, has partnered with marketing firm NIL Athlyt and media company Urban Edge network to create do-nothing deals for athletes.
GCAC Commissioner Dr. Keke Barnes said, “This is now helping us enhance a lot of things, our conference operations, and what we can do for our student-athletes.”
They are now finding those opportunities amidst the backdrop of unprecedented interest in HBCUs. Men’s basketball athletes from HBCUs Texas Southern and Howard competed on the NCAA national stage this week despite both schools losing, respectively, to Fairleigh Dickinson and Kansas.
The Norfolk State women’s basketball team beat Howard in the MEAC conference championship to advance and face top seed South Carolina on Friday.
Deion Sanders, now the head football coach at Colorado, helped the HBCU grow in popularity when he was at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Deon Sanders, now the head football coach at Colorado, helped resurge the popularity of the HBCU when he was at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
Sanders’ star power, along with racial reckoning after the 2020 killing of George Floyd, has allowed more resources to flow into black schools, said Dr. J Kenyatta Cavill, a Texas Southern University professor who focuses on athletics at the HBCU.
“Some people are popular,” Cavill told the AP, “but[Sanders’]openness in presenting his ideas, an audio story, led everyone to see, ‘What does this mean?'” “And it really launched the HBCU programs that high into the atmosphere.”
The SWAC conference, which plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), leads all HBCU conferences in total NIL earnings, and ranks 21st in athlete compensation, according to data compiled by NIL technology and marketing firm Opendorse.
Before attending the Howard vs. Kansas game, Harris spoke at Grand View University, a Lutheran college, where she was holding a roundtable discussion on reproductive rights.
The vice president then spoke to Howard’s players in their locker room after the loss to Kansas, giving them an inspiring pep talk recognizing their efforts, talent, and discipline.
“You put everything you’ve got into the game, and you know that’s what it’s about, right,” Harris said. You did it until the last minute. You didn’t stop until the last minute, you didn’t stop. This is very inspiring.
So keep playing with your chin and shoulders back because you showed the world who the Bison is. I mean, literally what it did in historical consistency. I was at Howard the other day, where we were just happy to have a match, let alone get to this place.
“And I see Bison literally all over the world, and we were talking about you, this team. […] You make us so proud. So you may not feel so good right now, but you know who you are. You are privileged. You work so hard. You are strong and you win so please know that.
Harris topped off her speech by inviting the Bisons to tour the White House whenever they felt like playing “hockey” from school. The players laughed at the vice president’s joke shortly thereafter.
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