Pass First–On and Off the Court

May 08

North Carolina Tar Heels are super passionate about their college basketball team.  (Case and point: the season is over and I’m still talking about it.)  So when North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall–the nation’s leading assist man–announced he had a fractured wrist shortly after his team’s advancement to the Sweet 16, many ardent fans–myself included–felt their championship dreams crushed, much like Marshall’s wrist.  But instead of wallowing in despair, one student decided to bring Carolina fans together and hold out hope for Marshall’s tournament return.  Turns out, it proved to be more than a gesture among friends as the idea quickly transformed into a movement.

The idea was simple: draw the number five on your right wrist, representing Marshall’s jersey number and the location of his fracture.  The creators—who have chosen to remain anonymous—coined it “PassFir5t,” citing Marshall’s pass-first basketball mentality.  They casually created a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and shared it with a few friends.

Five on Wrist

It didn’t take long for the Carolina community to catch on.  Within hours, hundreds of people had posted pictures of “5” wrists on their Facebook accounts and Twitter handles, showing silent solidarity for the injured guard.  Ten days later, there were more than 3,200 members on the PassFir5t Facebook page. Articles were written by, the News & Observer, and several blogs.  Even Kendall Marshall took notice.

K. Marshall Tweet

With the growing momentum, the creators began to ask themselves: what do you do with the attention of thousands of passionate people?  How can we make this about more than basketball?  Their answer: use the platform and its message to exemplify how people should live their lives—by putting others before themselves (or in Marshall’s case: pass first).   The creators wanted to inspire people to do good within their own community.   Leading by example, they set up a meeting with Basebald–a local organization dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research–and established their first partnership.  News of the partnership spread quickly over their social media network and within 24 hours, PassFir5t and its supporters had raised $2,000 for Basebald.

The Tar Heels rallied past the University of Ohio in the Sweet 16 game before falling to the University of Kansas in the Elite Eight.  Kendall Marshall did not play in either game.  Wrists were washed, but the PassFir5t spirit lived on as the number of supporters grew and new partnerships formed with other organizations, including local chapters of Fighting Cancer Below the Belt and Uhuru Child.  As of April 12, 2012, PassFir5t had raised almost $4,000 for various charities.  The creators have stressed that PassFir5t is more than simply raising money.  It’s about sharing the message of selflessness with others and taking a more active role in the community through volunteerism or supporting local organizations.

As an early supporter of the PassFir5t movement, it’s been amazing to see how quickly an idea can spread over social media, how it evolves over time, and how one person’s passion can inspire an entire community to act.  This year, Carolina fans proved that their passion extends beyond the basketball court and into communities where their actions truly make a difference.  And that makes me proud to be a Tar Heel.

For more information about PassFir5t, visit:


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 at 2:43 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Social Marketing, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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