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Behind the Irish Non-Athlete t-shirt

| Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You may have seen them around campus: the Irish Non-Athlete t-shirts. While the wording on the shirt is simple, the message is unclear for some. As the president of The Wabruda, the club behind the production of the Irish Non-Athlete t-shirts, I want to address the Notre Dame community on their history and meaning.

The Irish Non-Athlete t-shirts provide The Wabruda and the greater student body a means to address a historical social issue on our campus. First created to address the misconception that every minority student on campus plays a varsity sport, the shirt has evolved in meaning as time has progressed. This shirt has become a means by which all students on campus can display that, while they do not play a varsity sport on campus, they still play a major role in representing and bringing honor to Our Lady’s University.

The shirt is in no way meant to ostracize our university’s athletes. We appreciate and acknowledge the hard work and dedication that our athletes put into not only their studies, but also their athletic crafts. We encourage athletes to wear the shirt and invite them to partake in the intellectual elevation that The Wabruda aims to achieve. This problem is not one that is only faced by our “non-athletes,” but also by our athletes, as they are stereotyped as having less work ethic in the classroom because of their athletic pursuits. The shirt, coupled with athletes’ various assortment of team-issued shirts, could be used to show the multiple facets of the Notre Dame student-athlete. The Wabruda does not aim to offend, but looks to address this social problem and create a stimulating campus-wide dialogue. Once obtained, it is strongly encouraged that the message on the shirt is shared in a way that helps to spread awareness and cause for a more unified and inviting campus for all.

Some believe that the harsh wording “non-athlete” can be taken as a hostile attack against a specific group on Notre Dame’s campus. However, the wording is as it is in order to create no ambiguity in the primary social misconception that it aims to combat. With the progressive resolution and eradication of social problems such as these, we will all truly be able to proclaim that WE ARE ND.

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Charles


  • Johnny Whichard

    “historical social issue”…exactly. This is an OLD issue that has been resolved. Sure there are still a few bigots on campus, but maybe it’s time the races came together instead of huddling in RACE based “clubs” and “groups”. If you want inclusion and harmony, stop self-segregating.

    • Devlin

      Just because it is a “historical social issue” does not mean that it has been resolved. Rather, it is an issue that has withstood the test of time and continues to be present even now. It is still a regular occurrence, especially on football weekends, to have people assume that one is on the football (or any other sport) team due to race or the color of one’s skin. Also, clubs such as the Wabruda, Shades of Ebony, Latino Student Alliance, Asian American Association and Dance Africa are not simply “RACE based” clubs and groups as you have mentioned. Clubs such as these are geared towards the discussion of and sharing in the cultures of these races and ethnicities, and it is because of this fact that most if not all of these clubs are open to people of all races and ethnic groups. Just as you would openly choose to enroll in an African American Civil Rights Movement class due to your interest in the history and plight of African Americans (people of all races are enrolled in this course), people of all races may join and have joined these clubs because they share a similar interest. Naturally, there will be more members of the race that coincides with the club because they innately relate to the culture. However, such does not translate to self-segregation and this is not the mission of these clubs. “Inclusion and harmony” is something that we need to continue to strive for, and that will only be done through open dialogue, the unity of the races and ethnic groups, and the extension of an open hand.

  • Anonymous

    As a white male, may I join the Wabruda club and receive this shirt?

    • Dre Smith


  • Anonymous

    It was never the perception that “every *minority* student on campus plays a varsity sport” — the misconception was about some but not all minority groups.

  • Orlando Gomez

    I’m a physicist on campus and my first reaction to these shirts was that Notre Dame has such a prestigious athletic reputation that they wanted to ensure that I did not tarnish that by being viewed as an athlete. It was interesting to see how my view was in complete contrast with others, but I guess I am politically ignorant on such affairs. Oh well…