MHSAA to sell Oxford Strong T-shirts in state-wide initiative to raise funds for victims

Detroit Free Press

Imagine if every person in every gym across the state wears an Oxford Strong T-shirt to a game on Feb.4.

Imagine the power behind a symbolic gesture like that.

Imagine the money it could raise for the victims of the Oxford shooting.

Imagine the statement it will be screaming: “We are united with you Oxford. We ache with you. We are trying to help. And we stand up against school violence!”

“It’s using sports to heal,” Brian Gordon, the interim athletic director at Royal Oak, said.

The MHSAA announced this fantastic state-wide initiative on Monday. The T-shirts will be sold for $20 and all profits will go to the victims of the Oxford shooting.

“Every day since Nov. 30, schools have asked us what they can do, how can they help,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said in the announcement. “While there is no way to take away the pain from such a tragedy, our statewide community will be glad to provide any comfort possible to Oxford schools and their community at this time of such great sorrow.”

The T-shirts will cost $20 with $16.20 donated from each sale, according to the MHSAA release. Schools are being encouraged to order T-shirts with the minimal order of 50 pieces. The general public can order T-shirts at supportoxfordstrong.com and clicking “individual order.” Merchandise items include T-shirts, long sleeve Ts, crewneck sweatshirts and hoodies with all profits going to Oxford. Individual orders will be charged sales tax and shipping fees.

“Just think of the power on that night at 7 o’clock, on February 4, when all these kids, all these parents, members of different communities, all stand up at the same time,” Gordon said. “It’s the power of sport. An opportunity for the entire state, and especially kids, to say something. We don’t want this crap in our schools and we are standing together.”

More Seidel: Oxford High School shooting: Star athlete Tate Myre was willing to sacrifice for others

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Gordon came up with this idea because he wanted to raise money for the victims of the Oxford shooting, give people a way to show their support and use athletics as a way to help everybody stand up against school violence.

Now, here’s the great thing. Gordon, the former Novi athletic director who is now the interim AD at Royal Oak, happens to be tied in with coaches and athletic directors across the state.

He started making phone calls, talking to other athletic directors from different leagues and MHSAA administrators, and they have come up with something that sounds magical.

“It kind of started to spread a little bit like wildfire,” Gordon said.

They picked Feb.4 as the main event because it’s a busy sports night.

But it also gives them time to get this organized.

“We wanted to get take that month of January to kind of get our ducks in a row, so that we can promote the heck out of this,” he said.

Ideally, Gordon hopes that when somebody buys a T-shirt, it will get them into the gyms for free. But he can’t control how different schools set their gate fees.

“I think this would be a great opportunity for us as an athletic community to stand up together, not only to support Oxford, obviously, but to stand up against school violence,” Gordon said. “When crisis hits, sports can help heal. When 9/11 hit President Bush threw out that first pitch at Yankee Stadium. And it just shows that we are getting back on path, trying to get back to our lives back, how they used to be. Sports can do that.”

More Seidel: Detroit Lions played for something bigger than themselves on Sunday. They won for Oxford

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This is a fantastic idea and a great on so many levels

But it has the potential to be even bigger.

Hopefully, each school can tie in some educational elements to this as well, both as a way to prevent future actions as well as reinforce the danger of copycat threats.

“We are going to have something that can be read at every game,” Gordon said.  “It isn’t just basketball. It’s hockey. It’s competitive cheer. It doesn’t matter.”

Now, here is my idea. What if this can grow even bigger?

The Pistons are playing the Celtics at home on that day.

What if Pistons and their fans wore Oxford Strong T-shirts?

Can you imagine the statement that would be making the the entire country?

The Red Wings will be off for the Olympics on Feb.4. But what if the Wings got involved somehow with their game on Feb.2 at Little Caesars Arena?

What if local colleges joined in this movement?

I’m talking everybody, not just Michigan and MSU, but the smaller schools as well.

“I challenge our legislature to recognize this and help us make a statement about school violence,” Gordon said. “I would love for our governor to come out and help us with this effort. I’d love to see our legislature designate the month of February as being anti school violence month — or something!”

Yes, something.

This is a chance for everybody to do something.

What if, for one day, or even one weekend or one month, we all joined together and made a statement.

We support you Oxford. We stand together.

And this has to stop.

More Seidel: The flowers had to be perfect for the Oxford funerals. They made it happen.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

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