In 2007, Travis Price and DJ Shephard, seniors at Central Kings Rural High School at the time, made a good teammate move of epic proportions. What they did that day forever altered the course of history—for the better.
Price and Shepherd learned that Chuck McNeill, a ninth grader at their school, was being bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt on the first day of school.
Bullies were harassing McNeil with homophobic insults and threatening to beat him up. So Price and Shepherd, who had themselves been bullied when they were younger, decided to take a stand.
The duo went out and bought dozens of pink shirts to hand out to Central King students. They then took to social media to encourage everyone at the school to wear pink the next day in support of the bullied McNeil.
When McNeil arrived for the second day of school, he was greeted by what Price and Shepherd described as a “sea of pink.”
In an interview with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Price said: “You could see the weight that was lifted off (McNeil’s) shoulders to know that he wasn’t going to continue to be the bullied kid in school, that he was going to be just another kid in school, another student. He was going to be able to live his life.”
The actions Price and Shepherd took that day back in 2007 would give birth to what is now known as Pink Shirt Day. Today, people from countries around the world wear pink shirts on the last Wednesday in February to signify a stand against bullying.
Pink Shirt Day falls during Anti-Bullying Week and occurs just days before International Stand Up to Bullying Day, which happens on the last Friday in February.
I’ve written about the connection between good teammates and bullying in previous Teammate Tuesdays. (Good teammates don’t bully, nor do they tend to be bullied.)
If you’ve read The WE Gear or have ever heard me speak, you know I explain the art of being a good teammate through the acronym A.L.I.V.E. (Good teammates are Active, Loyal, Invested, Viral, and Empathetic.)
Price and Shepherd illustrate the power of ALIVE teammates.
• They saw a problem and were active in solving it. They didn’t blame, shame, or complain. They acted.
• They saw their school as their team and they were loyal to a teammate in need. Their allegiance was to something greater than themselves.
• They saw McNeil’s problem as their problem and became invested in his problem.
• They saw an opportunity to share their passion and for it spread to others. Wearing pink shirts and encouraging their fellow students to do the same made them viral.
• They saw that McNeil was hurting and made an effort to understand what it must feel like to be in his position. Their empathy led to a solution.
By being ALIVE, they turned bystanders into upstanders.
What I like best about the story of Pink Shirt Day is that neither Price nor Shepherd were popular kids at their school. They weren’t part of the “in-crowd.” They had no established platform nor position of influence. They were just two individuals inspired to bring about change.
Bullying is a problem that transcends schools. I have yet to encounter an underperforming team, be it sports, corporate, or other, that isn’t plagued by some form of toxicity related to bullying. Many times, it is the members’ responses—or lack of responses—to bullying that enable their teams’ toxicity.
This week, follow Price and Shepherd’s example. Take a courageous stand and don’t let bullying hold you or your team back.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate!