The NBA kicks off this week — on July 30 — with a doubleheader. The Utah Jazz will play the New Orleans Pelicans, while the LA Clippers will face off against the Los Angeles Lakers.
When players take to the court, some of them will be wearing jerseys that have social justice messages printed on the back. Alongside the jerseys, the basketball courts will also have the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ painted along the sidelines.
Earlier this month, the National Basketball Association settled on 29 different messages that players could choose to wear on their jerseys. According to Deadline, the approved list included ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘Say Her Name’ and ‘I Can’t Breathe’ — terms associated with the recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police in the United States.
Not all players have chosen to replace their surnames with these messages but the entire Utah Jazz team has.
Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert, who was the first player in the NBA to test positive to COVID-19 back in March, will wear the word ‘Equality’ on his back, as reported by KUTV. Other teammates have chosen ‘Justice Now’, ‘I Am a Man’, ‘Peace’, ‘Education Reform’, ‘Power to the People’ and ‘Say Their Names’.
A look at what the roster will wear on their jerseys in order to continue the important conversation of social justice ❤️
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) July 27, 2020
LA Lakers star LeBron James, on the other hand, has decided to forgo the message on his jersey, The Sydney Morning Herald has reported.
“It was no disrespect to the list that was handed down to all the players,” James told SMH. “I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal.”
James revealed that he was just one of a handful of players who had chosen not to wear a social justice message.
“I would have loved to have a say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey,” James said.
“I had a couple of things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. Everything that I do has a purpose, has a meaning. I don’t need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I’m about and what I’m here to do.”
Fellow Lakers players Anthony Davis has also opted out of the update to his jersey, preferring to keep his family name.
“Just holding my family name and representing the name on the back to go through this process and my name and people who’ve been with me through my entire career to help me get to this point,” Davis told the Los Angeles Times.
“While still kind of bringing up things that we can do for social injustice. Some guys chose to, some guys chose not. We’ll have a ton of ways to kind of represent what we stand for.”