The NBA resumed its season Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with a few changes: “Black Lives Matter” is printed in block lettering near center court and social justice messages are embroidered on the back of many players’ jerseys in place of their last names.
This season, which will be played inside the league’s bubble without any fans, is the first the league will permit this, after an agreement was reached between the league and its players union to allow players to choose from a list of 29 messages, including “Black Lives Matter”; “I Can’t Breathe”; “Justice”; “Peace”; “Equality”; “Say Her Name”; “Anti-Racist”; “Group Economics” and “I Am a Man” — the slogan famously used in the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.
“Black Lives Matter” and “Equality” were the two most popular choices, the Washington Post reported.
The move comes after months of nationwide protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd.
The messages will remain on the jerseys during the first four days of the season restart, after which players can choose between returning to a regular jersey or keeping both their chosen social justice message and their last name on their jersey.
Los Angeles Lakers’ Danny Green, who chose “How Many More” to place on his jersey told the Post, “It speaks out to how many more people of color are going to get killed or die at the hands of the force, of police brutality? How many more families are going to get denied housing? How many more Black men and women are going to get denied certain job opportunities? The list goes on.”
However, some players chose not to put a message on their jerseys, including Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James who, along with other players, said he would have liked to choose his own message rather than be forced to choose from a preapproved list. Lakers’ Anthony Davis kept his last name to honor his family, while Miami’s Jimmy Butler had wanted to have only a number on his jersey to show that everyone deserves the same rights, but the league reportedly denied his request.
The NBA’s foray into social justice comes a week after the MLB held a show of support for Black Lives Matter at its season openers, with players kneeling and holding a black ribbon in a moment dedicated to the movement. At the New York Yankees-Washington Nationals game “Black Lives Matter” was stenciled onto the back of the mound at the center diamond.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod made headlines last week for refusing to kneel for the moment, saying he “can’t kneel before anything but God” and that he “just can’t get on board with a couple things I’ve read about Black Lives Matter. How they lean towards Marxism and … they said some negative things about the nuclear family.”