NBA players who are choosing to play in the upcoming resumption of the 2019-2020 basketball season will be allowed to exchange the names on the backs of their jerseys with social justice messages.
Chris Paul, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, told ESPN’s website The Undefeated on Saturday (June 27) that the NBA players’ union and the league are coming together with a plan to have players don jerseys with the personalized messages that will endure past the current news cycle.
“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 said. “People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando. With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”
Pro basketball players have been vocal over the last several months of a rekindled focus on racial profiling and police violence involving African Americans, particularly since the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks.
They have also been involved in large scale demonstrations, donated money to social justice causes, and have held a presence on social media sending messages of solidarity with marchers.
Paul, who is president of the union, said he has spoken with numerous players, including some who are not Black who are behind the jersey idea. The league is almost 75 percent Black according to data included in the 2019 NBA Complete Racial and Gender Report Card, released last week. However, wearing a social justice message will not be mandatory for any player in the NBA.
“The guys I talked to were definitely excited,” Paul told ESPN. “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.”
The NBA season was postponed in the spring due to the spread of coronavirus. Games will resume on July 31 in an abridged season with a playoff series, according to the league.