The players’ union and the NBA are collaborating to allow players to wear jerseys with personalized social justice, social cause or charity messages on the backs.
This would be instead of their last names during the upcoming restart of the NBA season. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association, told The Undefeated on Saturday.
This is a part of a long list of social justice messages the players plan to make through the remainder of the season. The season restarts July 30 in Orlando, Florida.
The NBA and the NBPA announced an agreement on Wednesday to continue to discuss fighting systemic racism and to make it one of the main focuses of the restart.
Statements like, “Black Lives Matter” or “I Can’t Breathe,” will keep the cause at the forefront of the return. Social and charitable causes or displaying the names of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, allows players to seize the moment.
“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,” Paul told The Undefeated.
“People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando. With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”
Players who would rather raise awareness with their jerseys for causes or charities will be accepted as well.
Paul, whose Thunder will be playing in the NBA restart, said he has not decided what he would want on the back of his jersey.
Paul 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 and pressured to wear jerseys with social justice messages.
The Evolution of the Game
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Friday that the league “has work to do” in hiring African Americans in notable roles.
The NBA was made up of 74.9% Black players during the 2018-19 season; according to the 2019 NBA Complete Racial and Gender Report Card.
It was released last week by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES).
“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.”
Paul protested peacefully at a Black Lives Matter event in Los Angeles. The 15-year NBA veteran said he hopes the jerseys will spark more conversation about each player’s social message or cause.
Paul said the NBPA plans to reach out to the families of Floyd, Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and others. They want to get their permission to use names on the backs of NBA jerseys.
“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. If guys are choosing to come down to Orlando to make sacrifices and play this game, why not be able to play and still say his or her name at the same time?