Air Force will honor the Tuskegee Airmen with special football uniforms this season in a gesture that, while timely, was more coincidence than a reaction to current events.

The design for the latest Airpower Legacy Series uniform will be unveiled Sept. 21, but athletic director Nathan Pine announced the theme in a public letter Monday.

As Pine explained, “the Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American pilots from the U.S. Army Air Corps, commissioned by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in September 1940. The pilots began their training at Morton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama. More than 900 pilots graduated from the program and more than 350 served in active duty as fighter pilots.”

In November 2019, the Air Force Academy airfield was renamed the Davis Airfield in honor of trailblazer Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., a member of the Tuskegee Airman and the first African-American officer to solo an Army Air Corps aircraft.

The renaming of the airfield was fresh in the minds of academy officials when they entered a December 2019 meeting with Nike representatives to begin plans for the 2020 uniforms, The Gazette learned through a source. The choice of the design, steeped in American racial relations history, was made at that point and not later in reaction to protests and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement that has become a social and political firebrand in recent months.

The Airpower Legacy Series is in its fifth year since its 2016 debut featuring a Tiger Shark nose-art theme in honor of multiple aircraft dating back to World War II. Other installments have honored the AC-130 gunship, F-35 fighter and C-17 transport.

Air Force will wear the uniforms honoring the Tuskegee Airmen in the Oct. 3 home game against Navy, the lone home game on the fall 2020 schedule after coronavirus concerns wiped out the rest of the slate.

The Falcons are 9-0 when wearing Airpower Legacy Series uniforms.

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