CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Rhodes and East Tech team got some new gear just in time for the city track championships on Tuesday.
DistrictWON Cleveland has received permission from the Jesse Owens Family and Jesse Owens Trust to provide a new, customized uniform for two Cleveland Metropolitan School teachers.
“I thought it was fake for a moment,” Rhodes coach Julian Jackson Ross said. “They said they would like to donate the jersey in honor of Jesse Owens. As a track coach and someone who loves track and knows exactly who this guy is, it is amazing.”
Jackson Ross said he and a group of DistrictWon put their heads together at lunch to come up with the design. DistrictWon CEO Peter Fitzpatrick explained that his company was proud to take this opportunity to educate the younger generation about an American icon who happens to be a CMSD product.
“We would like to find ways to help schools, and obviously student athletes,” Fitzpatrick said. “We really thought Cleveland was doing something to honor a person — I think a lot of people in Cleveland don’t even realize that Jesse Owens has such a history here — we thought it would be a good thing for schools, students, coaches, and so forth.”
Rhodes and East Tech were chosen because Owens joined East Tech in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but was only allowed to practice in Rhodes due to segregation.
“As a former East Tech track athlete, he was my idol,” said Leroy Carter, athletics director and track and field coach. “As a track coach, I tell his life story to student-athletes to instill pride and overcome obstacles both in track and in life. By wearing his motto, he will provide self-efficacy and carry on his legacy.”
Owens, a specialist in sprint and long jump, made his national stage debut when the 9.4-second world record equalized a 100-yard dash. And she set two national high school records with a 20.7 in a 220-yard dash and a 24 feet and 11.75-inch long jump while attending East Tech.
In the 1935 Big Ten Championships, Owens He set three world records and tied another in less than an hour. This feat was celebrated at the time as the “Best 45 Minutes Ever in Sports.” The following year, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he won an unprecedented four gold medals, defying the ideology of Adolf Hitler, who was present.
President Gerald Ford awarded Owens the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a civilian, in 1976.
“It’s one of the most special honors I’ve ever had in coaching and I’ve been doing it for a while,” said Jackson Ross. “We had a little party before we came here to put on shirts and show these kids, they just saw them today. They know they have to run for greatness like Jesse Owens. I just told them to run great and be great, and they did.”
DistrictWON, the same company that launched senatelive.com earlier this year to broadcast and display CMSD athletics, is in partnership with high schools primarily through athletics. Its mission is to create meaningful brand connections deep into communities through marketing partnerships with high schools, with everything driven by a real purpose.
There has been pressure to educate CMSD students about the rich history of many of its schools, particularly in sports. Fitzpatrick said he thinks T-shirts and Jesse Owens, are great topics to start this education.
“We are working directly with the region, but this is an independent effort that clearly relates to everything they are trying to do,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is something that was a direct effort between DistrictWon, the district itself, and the two schools involved.”
Although there is currently no plan to expand the T-shirts to the rest of the district, Fitzpatrick said DistrictWon has spoken to the Owens family and the family trust about including other schools. The next big initiative from the company will be to get current CMSD students hanging on SenateLive during football and basketball matches.
“SenateLive is in its first year, and we expect it to grow significantly next year and the year after,” Fitzpatrick said. Moreover, the whole idea is to have a number of students actually do the broadcast. It’s a great tool for learning and all job experiences, as well as introducing students to the world of media and broadcasting.”