NBA players have decided not to use the names of those who have died in police custody or in racially motivated incidents on the backs of their jerseys due to concerns about offending those close to someone whose name might not be used, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.
In addition, it would be difficult to get permission from surviving family members.
The NBA and NBPA are continuing talks regarding placing social justice messages on jerseys. Those talks are expected to conclude by the end of the week, a source said.
The personalized statements on jerseys are part of a long list of social justice messages the players plan to deliver over the rest of the season, which restarts July 30 in Orlando, Florida. The NBA and NBPA announced an agreement last Wednesday to continue to discuss fighting systemic racism and to make it one of the main focuses of the restart. Personalized jerseys could say such things as “Black Lives Matter” or “I Can’t Breathe” and bring light to a social or charitable cause.
“We’re just trying to continue to shed light on the different social justice issues that guys around our league continue to talk about day in and day out,” players’ union president Chris Paul told The Undefeated last week. “People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando. With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”
NBA players were involved in nationwide protests, vocal on social media and active in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor’s death on March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, at the hands of police. For players who would rather raise awareness with their jerseys for causes or charities not connected to social justice, police brutality or other racial issues, Paul said that will be accepted as well.
He said he has talked to numerous players, including some who are not Black, who support the jersey idea. He said players will not be forced or pressured to wear jerseys with social justice messages. There will also be suggestions offered to players looking for a cause to support.
“The guys I talked to were definitely excited,” Paul said. “The reason I’m passionate and excited about it is that it gives a voice to the voiceless. It also gives guys a chance to shine a light on something they are passionate about. Otherwise, they may not have been given a chance to express themselves.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday in a media conference call that the league “has work to do” to make progress in hiring African Americans in notable roles, and the need for diversity was discussed at a recent board of governors meeting. Black players made up 74.9% of NBA rosters during the 2018-19 season, according to the 2019 NBA Complete Racial and Gender Report Card released last week by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.
Paul protested peacefully at a Black Lives Matter event in Los Angeles and has been vocal on social media about racial injustice and police brutality. The 15-year NBA veteran said he hopes the jerseys will spark more conversation about each player’s social message or cause.
“I was just thinking about how forward-thinking our league is and how passionate the players in our league are about different issues,” Paul said. “Our guys have been marching on the front lines and using their platforms.”