For GMU Athletes, Tattoos Are a Personal Decision


(Monday, January 29, 2007 11:54 AM EST)

If the crowds at George Mason University basketball games need a brief distraction from the action, they can always take a closer look at the players - and notice that that some have visible tattoos, and others do not.

The 13 members on the squad have varying opinions on the subject. And the decision to get tattooed can be very personal.

For senior Gabe Norwood, the concept of family was the focus of his design.

His tattoo - the word “ohana” (Hawaiian for “family”) - runs down his left calf, and he shares the design with his brother, a student-athlete at Penn State.

“It was something I thought about for a while,” Norwood said. “My mom is from Hawaii, and tattoos are part of the Samoan culture. My dad's even thinking of getting [the same design].”

Jordan Carter, a junior, has a tattoo that features a cross and the guardian angel prayer on his right bicep. It has sentimental value, he said.

“I got this prayer because, before my grandmother died, she said she would be my guardian angel,” he said. “I pray to her before every game.”

GMU athletes with visible tattoos say they have received no objections from the university, and have largely received positive feedback from the public and fans.

“I haven't experienced any negative reactions, really,” Norwood said. “Most people don't even know I have it.”

Last year's Patriots squad made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, exposing the team, its players - and their tattoos - to a much wider audience.

“I actually got praise for it, especially from my family in Hawaii,” Norwood said of his experience last year.

“I'm not aware of any regulations on getting tattoos,” said Maureen Nasser, GMU's assistant athletic director for media relations. “It's a tough line to question, since tattoos are a form of personal expression.”

A good number of players do not have tattoos for the public to see, and some want to stay tattoo-less.

“My mother tells me to have a clean image,” said junior Folarin Campbell. “I wouldn't get a tattoo unless I really needed it.”

But for some, it may just be a matter of time.

“I don't have a tattoo yet, but check me out next year,” said junior John Vaughan. “But one reason I haven't gotten one yet is because I don't what I want.”

The most important thing to remember, though, is that once the tattoo is there, it's not going anywhere, said Norwood.

“People should definitely understand that it's permanent,” he said. “I know I want more, but the tattoos should all be things I won't be ashamed of. It's artwork.”

Gabe Norwood has a tattoo down one leg that reflects his Hawaiian heritage.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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