When the NBA resumes play in July, fans will notice new details on the courts. The league and the National Basketball Players Association have agreed to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports venues hosting games near Orlando, according to USA Today and ESPN.
The slogan reportedly will be painted inside both sidelines, in front of the scorer’s table and in front of the broadcast booth. The decision is part of an ongoing effort from the NBA and its players to use their platform to fight systemic racism in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor.
The league is also reportedly considering letting players wear social justice or charitable messages on their jerseys. This means players would have phrases like “Black Lives Matter” or “I can’t breathe” replacing their surnames on the back of their jerseys, as the English Premier League has done.
“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,” NBPA President and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul told the Undefeated on Saturday. “People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando. With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”
The NBA is set to resume play on July 30 and will feature 22 teams fighting for a postseason berth. Teams will begin traveling to Florida on July 7.
A number of current and former players are hesitant to resume playing an NBA season, not just because of the novel coronavirus pandemic that stopped the season in the first place, but because they say it could take away from the progress being made by the protests against racial injustice that have occurred throughout the country this month.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving reportedly said in a conference call. “I’m not with the systematic racism. … Something smells a little fishy.”
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard sided with Irving.
“Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction,” Howard told CNN through a statement from his agent.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who was Floyd’s close friend, is also against his former employer going forward with its season.
“I love the NBA, man. That’s my family,” Jackson said. “But now ain’t the time to be playing basketball, y’all. Now ain’t the time. Playing basketball is going to do one thing: take all the attention off the task at hand right now and what we fighting for.”
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