NBA Players Will Wear Words of Protest During Games

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Jul 06, 2020

Fans who are anxious for the National Basketball Association (NBA) to resume games will find that some of their favorite players will use the back of their team jerseys to publicly promote their stance on social and racial justice, the NBA reported on July 3. 

“The league and the players are uniquely positioned to have a direct impact on combating systemic racism in our country, and we are committed to collective action to build a more equal and just society,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in a June 24 statement. “A shared goal of our season restart will be to use our platform in Orlando to bring attention to these important issues of social justice.”

According to ESPN, the association and players approved 29 different messages that speak directly to police violence against Black people: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform and Mentor.

The decision to turn jerseys into political statements was possibly made during a June 23 meeting between the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) executives who agreed that the league needed to have a louder voice around systemic racism and play a larger role in the Black community. Honing in on that point, the statement said that, “In recognition that long-term change can only come from an informed and sustained commitment, conversations regarding these efforts will be ongoing, and additional details will be released at a later date.” 

Many basketball fans will remember the Miami Heat donning hoodies and demanding justice in 2012—eight years ago—for 17-year-old Trayvon Martin who was murdered in Sanford, Florida. They will also remember some of the pushback they received for pushing for justice.

As players gear up to restart the 2019-20 season in Orlando, about a 30-minute drive from the city where Martin was murdered, the NBA said it is focused on prioritizing players’ activism and leadership. 

Stressing the athletes’ position as role models, NBPA president and Oklahoma City Thunder player Chris Paul said:

The issues of systemic racism and police brutality in our country need to end. As a union of NBA players and as a league, it is our job to use our collective platform to both put a spotlight on those issues and work to effect change. As players, we have taken a leadership role when it comes to using our voices and implementing practical solutions, but there is much work ahead both in Orlando and long-term to continue the momentum and bring about real, long-lasting change to our society.