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NBA may allow players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys

LeBron James and other NBA players may be sending a message with their jerseys when the season resumes next month. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
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The NBA season, compressed out of necessity because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, is going to look a lot different, possibly right down to the jerseys the players wear, when it resumes next month outside Orlando.

The players’ union and the league are in talks about allowing a player to use the shirt on his back to send a message that he cares deeply about, whether it’s social justice or a charity, ESPN reported. It would be a logical extension of last week’s agreement in which the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to continue to discuss how they could best use their platform to fight systemic racism.

“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,” Chris Paul, president of the NBPA and a guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, 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.”

That means it’s possible that Black Lives Matter or “I can’t breathe” messages will be sent when the season resumes July 30, an extension of the activism NBA players have long shown when it comes to social injustice and police brutality. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat posed in hoodies after Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in 2012. And despite being told to “shut up and dribble,” James and his fellow players have continued to speak up. The latest examples have come with the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

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“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 and his fellow athletes in the NBA and other sports have taken part in Black Lives Matter marches after Floyd’s death, and Paul acknowledged that some players could wear the names of those who have been killed, if they get approval from their families.

“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?

“At marches they are saying, ‘Say his name … George Floyd. Say her name … Breonna Taylor.’ ”

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