Saban and Sanders join forces on behalf of HBCUs and healthcare
Updated: Oct 29, 2021
Seven-time national champion coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide and NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders partnering this season to bring more exposure across college football to Historically Black Colleges and Universities while also aiding communities of color with unexpected medical bills that health insurance may not cover, according to a recent announcement from insurance giant, Aflac.
Saban, a long-time brand ambassador for Aflac will be joined in the spotlight this season by Sanders, the head coach at Jackson State University. The pair have already filmed three commercials that will debut this season.
In a press release announcing his participation, Sanders could not seem to resist the urge to inject a bit of humor into the affair, going so far as to shout out Aflac's webbed-footed mascot.
"Aflac is rooted in caring for people when they need them most, whether through their policies and services or the way they tackle issues that are important to all communities. We share a vision when it comes to supporting HBCUs and, more broadly, communities of color," said Sanders.
"I like to say that I see myself as standing in the gap between those who need greater support and the institutions that can provide that support. Aflac helps close gaps for their customers who have medical bills that their health insurance doesn't cover, so together, I look forward to working with Aflac, the Aflac Duck and, of course, Coach Nick Saban as we put the ball in the end zone and make a real difference in peoples' lives."
Since arriving at JSU, Sanders has vocal proponent for more exposure within the HBCU ranks on a national level. Earlier this year, the flashy head coach shared a personal instance of hardship concerning one of his players in order to shed more light on the football process at HBCUs and the financial and mental challenges some smaller-market student-athletes face in college athletics.
"Seeing 1 of my lineman getting dressed in the locker room for work after a tough 7:15am workout/ strength, conditioning & class," Sanders tweeted.
"Now he’s headed to put in 6 hours on the clock at his job brought tears to my eyes as I walk away from him. HBCU’s need COST OF ATTENDANCE!"
Many student-athletes nationwide now receive "cost of attendance" stipends, which provide funding in excess of the benefits of a scholarship at major universities. A 2015 NCAA ruling allowed for cost of attendance stipends to be issued to student-athletes as additional dollars to help cover costs of out-of-pocket items. The ability to offer such stipends depends heavily on the size of a school's athletic program and the amount of funding it receives. More often than not, the small size of athletic programs at HBCU's prevent student-athletes from receiving such cost of attendance stipends.
Following this year's NFL Draft, Sanders had a bone to pick with the pro ranks after no HBCU players were selected. Sanders said he saw several players who were draft-worthy this season first-hand and does not understand why the NFL ignores that level of college football.
"And we have the Audacity to Hate on one another while our kids are being NEGLECTED & REJECTED," Sanders wrote on Instagram after the NFL Draft. "I witnessed a multitude of kids that we played against that were more than qualified to be drafted. My prayers are that This won’t EVER happen again. Get yo knife out my back and fight with me not against me."
In January, Sanders challenged leaders at HBCU programs to step up their game in regards to facilities and infrastructure.
As part of the partnership with Aflac, the insurance company will provide $75,000 to the Jackson State University athletic department for professional development and continue its 20-year partnership with HBCUs.
"By partnering with Coach Prime, we will shine a bright spotlight on the rich legacy of HBCU football and the role these amazing colleges and universities play in the lives of so many promising students on and off the field," Aflac chief brand and marketing officer Shannon Watkins said in a release.
"Coach Prime's commitment to HBCUs aligns perfectly with Aflac's desire to help close health and wealth gaps for communities of color. We want to do our part to ensure all communities have equal opportunities to thrive and succeed."