Autism awareness jerseys for Kent State men’s basketball team designed by Fashion School

Senior Philip Whittington (25) wears autism awareness jersey designed by the Kent State University Fashion School during game against Ohio University on Sat. Feb. 15, 2020. Under Armour reached out to Kent State’s top fashion students to design the jerseys.

Hailey Phillips Reporter


Under Armour reached out to Kent State about creating autism awareness basketball jerseys and Kent State’s top-ranking Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising students designed them.


The Fashion School gave students the opportunity to submit designs of a jersey and T-shirt for the men’s home basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 15 against Ohio University. The Fashion School and marketing team for the event chose the designs with the best fitting message“1 in 59.”

One in 59 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The “1 in 59” message shown on the back of the jerseys, where last names are normally displayed, shares this statistic to everyone who sees them.

25 to 30 designs were submitted, said the Director of Athletic Marketing Strategy Matthew Papatheodorou. Trenton Johnston, a freshman visual communications design major, won the jersey design and Tuesday Pears, sophomore fashion design major, won for the T-shirt design. The students were recognized at the game for their designs and received gift cards to Under Armour for winning. The contest also gives students the opportunity to add their designs to portfolios.

The contest was created for Kent State’s first autism awareness basketball game. The Assistant Vice President of Marketing Strategy Todd Snider said the team for this event hopes to make it an annual event and wear the autism awareness jerseys for the game every year.

“Under Armour opened the door to the idea of an autism awareness game and jerseys,” Snider said.

The idea received help for execution from organizations on and around Kent campus. Faculty and staff in the University of Communications and Marketing, The Fashion School, the athletics department and other organizations worked together to put on this event. Local autism awareness organizations, like Autism Society of Greater Akron and Greater Cleveland, partnered with them to support the game.

50 percent of the ticket sales from the game went to autism awareness organizations, which is one way support for autism was shown at the game. 

KultureCity, a nonprofit organization aiming to create a world where all autistic individuals are accepted and included, trained the M.A.C. Center staff to be sensory inclusive

The staff received education on how to notice someone with sensory conditions and how to help them. Sensory bags, including noise cancellation headphones and fidget toys, created for anyone who needs them are available at all events at the MAC.

Kent State accepted Kalin Bennett, a student athlete who is diagnosed with autism, in 2019. Bennett signed as the first freshman with autism to sign a national letter of intent to play Division I basketball.

“We recognize that this is a much bigger story than just Kalin,” Snider said. “There are many students and faculty on the spectrum.”

 Hailey Phillips is a fashion reporter. Contact her at [email protected].