Game over? NBA to allow players to put social justice statements on back of jerseys

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An agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Player’s Association reached on Saturday calls for allowing players who will take part in the season’s restart can replace their last names with messages calling for social justice, reports said.

The decision comes as a joint effort by the player’s union and Nike, which is the official athletic wear sponsor of the league, Los Angeles Times beat reporter for the L.A. Lakers tweeted.

“In recent years, the NBA and its players have been quick to adopt relevant aesthetics in the face of the social injustice around this country being in the national consciousness, particularly to Black Americans,” CBS Sports reported.

“Following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police, players like LeBron JamesKobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving wore shirts that read ‘I Can’t Breathe’ — Garner’s final words. Players have also been vocal about the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery,” the network added.

Nike has also been instrumental in the inclusion of anti-racism messaging in its ads. The company recently produced a commercial encouraging people not to ignore alleged ‘systemic racism’ following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, though there has never been any indication that the incident was race-related in any way.

As for the NBA, players were a number of uniform variations throughout the season, but their nameplate on the back of the jersey has remained constant. The last time it was changed occurred in 2014 when players were permitted to put their nicknames on back instead of their surnames.

The NBA is the latest U.S.-based professional sports league to formally announce rule changes to reflect players’ desire to preach to fans about social and race issues.

The National Women’s Soccer League is now allowing players to kneel during the National Anthem, a change from just a few years ago when the league temporarily suspended star U.S. Soccer co-captain Megan Rapinoe for kneeling in support of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The NFL is also likely considering allowing players to protest during the upcoming season if it indeed happens in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We, at the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a video statement earlier this month as Floyd-related protests and rioting rocked the country.

“I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country,” he continued. “Without black players, there would be no National Football League and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans, and staff.

“We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family,” Goodell added.

As in the past, the NBA’s decision was widely panned on social media, including by conservative author and top talk radio host Mark Levin, who simply tweeted “Over and out” with a link to the CBS Sports report detailing the league’s jersey decision.


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