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Sunday, December 10, 2023

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Turquoise is the team color for the annual N7 men's basketball game. Above, Aztecs forward Nathan Mensah took a shot in the 2020 game, conducted with no spectators. Turquoise is the team color for the annual N7 men's basketball game. Above, Aztecs forward Nathan Mensah took a shot in the 2020 game, conducted with no spectators.

N7 Basketball Game Celebrates Native American Heritage Month

The Aztecs will again wear turquoise uniforms in Saturday's home game against UT Arlington.
By Aaron Burgin

Every November since 2014, the San Diego State University men’s basketball program dons turquoise jerseys for a single home game.

The jerseys are popular among the Aztecs faithful, but they are not a fashion statement.

They are a display of solidarity between the university and the Native American communities in San Diego County and a nod to the power of sports as an agent of change.

SDSU and Nike N7 — the shoe brand’s collection that honors and embodies the values, stories and diversity of Indigenous traditions and craft — continue their eight-year partnership Nov. 20, when the Aztecs face UT Arlington, wearing the popular alternate jerseys in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

“SDSU partnering with Nike N7 is a great way to invest back into the Native American community as the N7 Fund directly supports youth sports programs in Southern California,” said Christopher Medellin, director of the SDSU Native Resource Center. “One of the longstanding goals of the Nike N7 Native Night is to show that Native American people are still here and are important to the whole SDSU community.”

The turquoise color of the uniforms for the N7 game is deeply symbolic of friendship and community in Native American culture, reflecting SDSU's support in elevating the power of sport inside and outside Indigenous communities.

The N7 Game, as it has been called over the years, supports Inter Tribal Sports (ITS), a nonprofit organization based on campus that promotes organized athletics, wellness and leadership programs among tribal youth.

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Members of the ITS cheer teams perform with SDSU’s cheer team during halftime, and jerseys from the game are auctioned off to raise money for ITS, the Native Resource Center, the Native American Student Alliance and the SDSU American Indian Studies program.

In addition to organizing team sports on the reservations, ITS, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2022, is on the front line of the Type 2 diabetes and obesity epidemic in Native American communities through free health-related education activities and healthy snacks and beverages and nutrition programming spearheaded by ITS official mascot, Rez Dogg.

ITS Executive Director Isaiah Thompson said the N7 game, and the proceeds, are critical to the organization’s mission.

“The N7 game is important to Inter Tribal Sports because it is a celebration of bringing sports and all of its benefits to Native American communities,” Thompson said. “Our organization believes that sports should be accessible to all children and this event supports the movement. The partnership with San Diego State is extremely exciting as it will provide valuable resources, collaborations, and opportunities to the Native American communities that we serve.”

SDSU’s partnerships with the Native American communities go beyond the basketball game. The university itself is built on Kumeyaay land, is the home to Viejas Arena, an American Indian Studies department and multiple research initiatives, such as collaborating with Kumeyaay Community College to create Kumeyaay language classes and teaching extension classes to American Indian high school students to help them prepare for and promote college.

Aztecs Head Coach Brian Dutcher, who is coaching in his fifth N7 game, said that the program is proud to be a partner with the region’s Native communities.

Tickets to the game are available through Ticketmaster.