By Joel Alderman
Jack Montague and his No. 4 are gone from the Yale basketball roster, but that didn’t stop the full squad and a student manager from showing their support for him by wearing specially made tops with a mirror image of YALE (ELAY) in front and 4 GUCCI on the back at Friday night’s game with Harvard.
GUCCI is the nickname of the now ex-captain who, for reasons still not made known, withdrew from college on February 10th. Montague, it was demonstrated, is obviously still in the hearts of his former team mates. He wore No. 4 during his almost four seasons on the basketball team.
The Harvard contest was Yale’s first at home since his absence, after four games on the road. When the teams lined up for the national anthem, the Bulldogs’ players stood with arms draped over each other’s shoulders, with solemn faces and the gray Nike tops with the unique lettering in full view. See it on Youtube:
Although they wore them on the bench, they took them off before entering the game. They certainly were not part of the official uniforms.
Was it a veiled protest?
Yale has steadfastly refused to make any public reference about Montague aside from a curt statement that he has withdrawn from the University and then shut the door to any further comment.
Justin Sears, now the de facto team leader since no interim captain has been named, denied the backward spelling and inverted letters were a statement directed at the University.
“It’s just because Yale is a brand and there was a copyright,” Sears said in a press conference and on TV after Yale defeated its arch rival, 59-50. “Everyone on the team supported it and wanted to show our support for Jack.”
Nike currently has exclusive rights to the name YALE on its apparel. So the team ingeniously overcame any restrictions by printing it ELAY and using inverted letters. It resembled how it would appear if it was viewed in a mirror.
But nobody in the sold-out Lee Amphitheater or watching on television could have failed to mistake the word for what it was intended, which was of course YALE.
Aside from evading a possible copyright infringement, there were doubtless many at the Lee Amphitheater and watching on TV who had their own interpretations for why it was worn that way.
Without thinking it had anything to do with copyrights, the showing could have been taken for other meanings, especially by students who chanted “Gucci” throughout the game.
Protesting is a common activity at college campuses, especially in the Ivy League, and this could have been just another one, the reasoning goes.
Much of the scenario was picked up on television, and likely by Montague himself at his home in Tennessee or wherever he may have been during the game. The shirts were plainly visible on the sidelines and the bench, and the announcers made a few references to them during the broadcast.
How it originated
Sears said that junior guard AJ Edwards, an infrequently-used reserve, proposed the idea “at the last minute.” Fast action must have then been required to order the shirts and have them inscribed (not by Nike of course). Yale basketball apparel is still furnished by Nike, but after next season it will come from Under Armour.
By then there will probably be another player wearing Number 4. Wonder if he will be as good at making three-point baskets as Jack Montague was.