With the words on their backs, NBA players take a stand

The NBA will include “Black Lives Matter” messaging as part of its restart in Florida. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

As the NBA resumed its season Thursday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando, the absence of fans inside the league’s bubble was far from the only noticeable difference. Changes were made to the courts as well, with “Black Lives Matter” printed in block lettering near the center of the floor.

But perhaps the most significant aesthetic differences for this experimental conclusion of the season were the jerseys on players’ backs.

In the wake of widespread protests this spring and summer sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, the league and its players’ union agreed on a list of social justice messages players can choose to put on their jersey in lieu of their last name. The messages will be displayed above the number during the first four days of the season restart, after which players can choose to either simply go back to displaying their last name or keep both the social justice message and their last name on their jersey.

Players were reportedly given the option of choosing from 29 messages, including “Black Lives Matter”; “I Can’t Breathe”; “Justice”; “Peace”; “Equality”; “Say Her Name”; “Anti-Racist”; “Group Economics” and “I Am a Man” — the slogan famously used in the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.

Not every player chose to put a message on his jersey. Some, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, said they would have liked to choose their own message rather than pick from a preapproved list. Others, such as Lakers big man Anthony Davis, made a point to keep their last names to honor their families. Miami’s Jimmy Butler wanted to have nothing but a number on his jersey to communicate that everyone, NBA player or not, deserves the same rights. The league reportedly denied his request.

Among the phrases available, “Black Lives Matter” and “Equality” were the two most popular choices. International players had the option of displaying phrases in their native languages, which is why Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic’s jersey will read “Enakopravnost” — “Equality” in Slovenian.

Here is what players picked:

Boston Celtics

  • Jaylen Brown, Liberation
  • Carsen Edwards, Equality
  • Tacko Fall, Liberte
  • Javonte Green, Enough
  • Gordon Hayward, Education Reform
  • Enes Kanter, Freedom

That freedom means so much to me, not just for my country in Turkey, not just for people in America, but throughout the whole world. … My message to the whole world is, keep fighting for freedom. Keep fighting for justice. Stand for what you believe in and never back down.
Enes Kanter
  • Romeo Langford, Enough
  • Semi Ojeleye, Love Us
  • Vincent Poirier, Egalite
  • Marcus Smart, Freedom
  • Jayson Tatum, Black Lives Matter
  • Daniel Theis, Black Lives Matter
  • Kemba Walker, Love Us
  • Brad Wanamaker, Enough
  • Tremont Waters, Stand Up
  • Grant Williams, Equality

Brooklyn Nets

  • Jarrett Allen, Si Se Puede
  • Justin Anderson, Equality
  • Chris Chiozza, Black Lives Matter
  • Jamal Crawford, Equality
  • Donta Hall, Equality
  • Joe Harris, Equality
  • Tyler Johnson, How Many More
  • Rodions Kurucs, Peace
  • Caris Levert, Black Lives Matter
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Liberte
  • Jeremiah Martin, How Many More
  • Dzanan Musa, Peace (or Equality)
  • Garrett Temple, Education Reform
  • Lance Thomas, Say Her Name

Dallas Mavericks

  • Trey Burke, Equality
  • Antonius Cleveland, Equality
  • Dorian Finney-Smith, Equality
  • Tim Hardaway Jr., Equality
  • Justin Jackson, Equality
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Equality
  • Courtney Lee, Equality
  • Boban Marjanovic, Equality
  • Dwight Powell, Equality
  • Josh Reaves, Equality
  • Delon Wright, Equality
  • Seth Curry, Equality
  • Luka Doncic, Enakopravnost (Slovenian)
  • Maxi Kleber, Gleichberechtigung (“Equality” in German)
  • J.J. Barea, Igualdad (Spanish)
  • Kristaps Porzingis, Vienlidziba (Latvian)

Denver Nuggets

  • Keita Bates-Diop, Vote
  • Bol Bol, Black Lives Matter
  • Vlatko Cancar, Equality
  • Tyler Cook, Black Lives Matter
  • Torrey Craig, Love Us
  • Troy Daniels, Black Lives Matter
  • PJ Dozier, Respect Us
  • Gary Harris, Equality
  • Paul Millsap, Vote
  • Monte Morris, Black Lives Matter
  • Jamal Murray, Freedom
  • Mason Plumlee, Peace
  • Michael Porter Jr., Stand Up
  • Noah Vonleh, I Can’t Breathe

Houston Rockets

  • Robert Covington, Black Lives Matter
  • Russell Westbrook, Black Lives Matter
  • Michael Frazier, Equality
  • Eric Gordon, Equality
  • Luc Mbah a Moute, Justice
  • Bruno Caboclo, Justice Now
  • Chris Clemons, Justice Now
  • Jeff Green, Vote

Indiana Pacers

  • Jeremy Lamb, Black Lives Matter
  • Victor Oladipo, Black Lives Matter
  • Goga Bitadze, Equality
  • TJ Leaf, Equality
  • T.J. McConnell, Equality
  • Doug McDermott, Equality
  • Domantas Sabonis, Mes Lygus g Lithuanian)
  • Edmond Sumner, Equality
  • JaKarr Sampson, Freedom
  • Malcolm Brogdon, I Can’t Breathe
  • Alize Johnson, Justice
  • T.J. Warren, Justice
  • Myles Turner, Respect Us
  • Justin Holiday, Say Their Names
  • Brian Bowen II, Vote

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Amir Coffey, How Many More
  • JaMychal Green, Black Lives Matter
  • Montrezl Harrell, How Many More
  • Reggie Jackson, Liberation
  • Terance Mann, I Am A Man
  • Rodney McGruder, Peace
  • Marcus Morris, Education Reform
  • Joakim Noah, Justice
  • Patrick Patterson, I Am a Man
  • Landry Shamet, Equality
  • Lou Williams, Equality
  • Ivica Zubac, Enough

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Danny Green, How Many More
It speaks out to how many more people of color are going to get killed or die at the hands of the force, of police brutality? How many more families are going to get denied housing? How many more Black men and women are going to get denied certain job opportunities? The list goes on.
Danny Green

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo, Peace
  • Devontae Cacok, Justice Now
I feel like there is so much that hasn’t been done for so many people. There hasn’t been justice for a lot of people and it’s sad and wrong.
Devontae Cacok

  • Alex Caruso, Black Lives Matter
A lot of things just went into it, and ‘Black Lives Matter’ just seemed to be the thing that just struck a chord with me and I thought would be the most impactful.
Alex Caruso

  • Quinn Cook, Say Their Names
  • Talen Horton-Tucker, Black Lives Matter
  • JaVale McGee, Respect Us
Respect is a key factor in social injustices. We definitely need to get equality, and we definitely need to get the same respect everybody else does.
JaVale McGee

  • Markieff Morris, Education Reform
  • JR Smith, Justice Now
  • Dion Waiters, Black Lives Matter
With, everything that’s going on, I feel like this is a key moment in life right now for us to make a huge impact on and off the court. Just being able to keep letting everybody know what’s at hand, and how big it is. Just because basketball is back, you can’t forget about the most important thing that went on this year.
Dion Waiters

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Gorgui Dieng, Black Lives Matter
  • Ja Morant, Enough
  • Grayson Allen, Enough
  • Marko Guduric, Equality
  • John Konchar, Equality
  • Jonas Valanciunas, Equality
  • Anthony Tolliver, Group Economics
  • Josh Jackson, I Am A Man
  • Tyus Jones, I Can’t Breathe
  • Kyle Anderson, Listen To Us
  • Brandon Clarke, Peace
  • Yuta Watanabe, Peace
  • Justise Winslow, Speak Up
  • Jaren Jackson Jr., Vote

Miami Heat

  • Bam Adebayo, Black Lives Matter
  • Kyle Alexander, Peace
  • Jae Crowder, Black Lives Matter
I’m behind the movement.
Jae Crowder

  • Goran Dragic, Equality
  • Udonis Haslem, Black Lives Matter
  • Tyler Herro, Black Lives Matter
I‘m just standing behind the Black Lives Matter movement. I stand behind it and support it. And I feel I have a voice and a platform to be able to push it and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Tyler Herro

  • Solomon Hill, Education Reform
  • Andre Iguodala, Group Economics
  • Derrick Jones, Love Us
  • Meyers Leonard, Equality
  • Kendrick Nunn, Black Lives Matter
  • KZ Okpala, I Can’t Breathe
  • Kelly Olynyk, Equality
  • Duncan Robinson, Say Their Names
  • Chris Silva, Si Se Puede
  • Gabe Vincent, Black Lives Matter

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Equality
  • Kyle Korver, Black Lives Matter
  • Thansis Antetokounmpo, Equality
  • Eric Bledsoe, Freedom
  • Sterling Brown, Liberation
  • Pat Connaughton, Equality
  • Donte DiVincenzo, Equality
  • George Hill, Justice Now
  • Ersan Ilyasova, Justice
  • Brook Lopez, Justice Now
  • Robin Lopez, Stand Up
  • Frank Mason, How Many More
  • Wesley Matthews, Vote
  • Khris Middleton, Black Lives Matter
I think it’s the most important thing for people to realize. That our lives do matter. That’s why I went with it.
Khris Middleton

  • Marvin Williams, Black Lives Matter
  • D.J. Wilson, Black Lives Matter

New Orleans Pelicans

  • Sindarius Thornwell, Black Lives Matter
  • Lonzo Ball, Equality
  • Jaxson Hayes, Equality
  • E’Twaun Moore, Equality
  • Jahlil Okafor, Equality
  • Brandon Ingram, Freedom
  • Kenrich Williams, I Can’t Breathe
  • Derrick Favors, Listen To Us
  • Frank Jackson, Peace
  • Zion Williamson, Peace
  • Darius Miller, Power To The People
  • Zylan Cheatham, Say Their Names
  • Josh Hart, Say Their Names
  • Jrue Holiday, Say Their Names
  • JJ Redick, Say Their Names
  • Nicolo Melli, Uguaglianza (“Equality” in Italian)
  • Nickiel Alexander-Walker, Vote

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Chris Paul, Equality
I chose ‘EQUALITY’ because it reminds us that in order to have real impact and change, we need to make a conscious effort to level the playing field and create systems that are not bias based on race, education, economics or gender.
Chris Paul

  • Hamidou Diallo, Black Lives Matter
  • Terrance Ferguson, Black Lives Matter
  • Dennis Schroder, Black Lives Matter
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Equality
  • Nerlens Noel, Equality
  • Andre Roberson, I Am A Man
  • Devon Hall, Love Us
  • Mike Muscala, Peace
  • Abdel Nader, Peace
  • Steven Adams, Kia Kaha (Maori for “Stay Strong,” or “Power To The People”)
  • Luguentz Dort, Respekte Nou (Haitian Creole for “Respect Us”)
  • Kevin Harvey, Shalom (Hebrew for “Peace”)
  • Danilo Gallinari, Giustizia (“Justice” in Italian)

Orlando Magic

  • Vic Law, Antiracist
  • Mo Bamba, Black Lives Matter
  • DJ Augustin, Equality
  • Nikola Vucevic, Equality
  • Aaron Gordon, Freedom
  • Robert “BJ” Johnson, How Many More
  • Evan Fournier, Justice
  • James Ennis III, Justice Now
  • Michael Carter-Williams, Liberation
  • Gary Clark, Respect Us
  • Markelle Fultz, Respect Us

Philadelphia 76ers

  • Alec Burks, Enough
  • Furkan Korkmaz, Equality
  • Raul Neto, Equality
  • Kyle O’Quinn, Hear Us
  • Josh Richardson, Say Their Names
  • Matisse Thybulle, Vote

Phoenix Suns

  • Dario Saric, Antiracist
  • Ty Jerome, Enough
  • Aron Baynes, Equality
  • Devin Booker, Equality
  • Cam Johnson, Equality
  • Frank Kaminsky, Equality
  • Jalen Lecque, Equality
  • Elie Okobo, Equality
  • Cameron Payne, Equality
  • Cheick Diallo, Freedom
  • Ricky Rubio, Justice
  • Kelly Oubre, Peace
  • Deandre Ayton, Respect Us
  • Mikal Bridges, Respect Us
  • Jevon Carter, Respect Us

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Wenyen Gabriel, Antiracist
  • Zach Collins, Black Lives Matter
  • Nassir Little, Black Lives Matter
  • CJ McCollum, Education Reform
  • Damian Lillard, How Many More
  • Hassan Whiteside, How Many More
  • Gary Trent Jr., I Am A Man
  • Jaylen Adams, I Can’t Breathe
  • Anfernee Simons, I Can’t Breathe
  • Carmelo Anthony, Peace
  • Mario Hezonja, Stand Up
  • Jaylen Hoard, Egalite
  • Jusuf Nurkic, Ravnopravnost (“Equality” in Bosnian)

Sacramento Kings

  • De’Aaron Fox, Anti-Racist
Baze was talking about education reform and things like that, and I think it’s all racism — blatant racism or systematic racism — so that’s why I picked anti-racist for my jersey. I think it touches a lot of bases.
De'Aaron Fox

  • Kent Bazemore, Education Reform
  • Marvin Bagley III, Freedom
I picked Freedom. That’s what’s going to be on my jersey. That one words means a lot to me, whenever I see it or hear it. There’s a lot going on, and with all of this going on, until African Americans have an equal playing field, we’re not free.
Marvin Bagley III

  • Bogan Bogdanovic, Sloboda (“Freedom” in Serbian)
  • Kyle Guy, Black Lives Matter
  • Richaun Holmes, Black Lives Matter
  • Cory Joseph, Black Lives Matter
  • Nemanja Bjelica, Equality
  • Jabari Parker, Group Economics
  • Yogi Ferrell, How Many More
  • Corey Brewer, Peace
  • Justin James, Peace
  • Alex Len, Peace
  • DaQuan Jeffries, Power To The People
  • Buddy Hield, Respect Us
  • Harry Giles III, Say Her Name
  • Harrison Barnes, Say Their Names

San Antonio Spurs

  • Jakob Poeltl, Black Lives Matter
I think it’s an important topic to keep alive. At our very first practice, we spent the first 20-30 minutes talking about it.
Jakob Poeltl

  • Trey Lyles, Antiracist
  • Lonnie Walker, Black Lives Matter
  • DeMar DeRozan, Education Reform
  • Derrick White, Enough
  • Bryn Forbes, Enough
  • Quinndary Weatherspoon, I Can’t Breathe
  • Drew Eubanks, Justice
  • Rudy Gay, Justice
  • Keldon Johnson, Justice

Toronto Raptors

  • OG Anunoby, Say Their Names
  • Dewan Hernandez, Black Lives Matter
  • Malcolm Miller, Black Lives Matter
  • Normal Powell, Black Lives Matter
  • Pascal Siakam, Black Lives Matter
  • Matt Thomas, Black Lives Matter
  • Fred VanVleet, Black Lives Matter
  • Paul Watson, Black Lives Matter
  • Kyle Lowry, Education Reform
  • Stanley Johnson, Equality
  • Marc Gasol, Justice
  • Oshae Brissett, Respect Us
  • Patrick McCaw, Say Their Names
  • Chris Boucher, See Us
  • Terence Davis, Speak Up
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Speak Up
  • Serge Ibaka, Respectez Biso (French dialect of “Respect Us”)

Utah Jazz

  • Tony Bradley, Peace
  • Jarrell Brantley, Enough
  • Jordan Clarkson, Peace
I put peace because everybody is fighting for a peace of mind especially all of the Black Lives Matter things. The whole thing that everybody is fighting for at the end of the day calls for peace for all of us. To feel that equality in all areas and aspects of life. I feel like that’s the reason why I picked that.
Jordan Clarkson

  • Mike Conley, I Am A Man
  • Ed Davis, Education Reform
  • Rudy Gobert, Equality
  • Joe Ingles, Ally
  • Donovan Mitchell, Say Her Name
  • Juwan Morgan, Say Their Names
  • Emmanuel Mudiay, Peace
  • Georges Niang, Education Reform
  • Royce O’Neale, Equality
  • Miye Oni, Power To The People
  • Rayjon Tucker, Justice
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Justice Now
  • Justin Wright-Foreman, Justice

Washington Wizards

  • Isaac Bonga, Peace
  • Troy Brown Jr., Black Lives Matter
I put ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the back of my jersey to reiterate the social injustices that have been going on in our country and just to remind people that just because we’re in the bubble doesn’t mean we forget about everything that’s going on.
Troy Brown Jr.

  • Ian Mahinmi, Vote
Initially, I wanted to put ‘vote locally,’ because I am a believer in voting locally. I almost think that it has more of an impact on your life than the presidential elections. That was my message. I believe that in the system that we live in, it is the most accurate way to demand change, so I wanted to put that message.
Ian Mahinmi

  • Shabazz Napier, Equality
Everybody should be held at an equal standard, no matter the race, no matter the gender. I think that speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent — obviously, I’m not a female. I think that it’s very important, as much as the black and white … same for [the LGBTQ] community and their equal rights. That means a lot.
Shabazz Napier

  • Anzejs Pasecniks, Equality
I chose to have ‘equality’ on my back just as a simple reminder to treat every single person the same way.
Anzejs Pasecniks

  • Jerome Robinson, Black Lives Matter
That is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now. … I think it’s the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms.
Jerome Robinson

  • Admiral Schofield, Enough
Change is only going to be created by us who are willing to do so, who are willing to sit and have the hard conversations. Black lives matter to me because I am a Black man in America. I am a British American. One of the things that I’ve experienced in this country is pure racism, systematic racism — and it has to stop. So enough is enough.
Admiral Schofield

  • Moe Wagner, Vote
I feel like, coming from Europe, not a lot of people participate in politics over here in the United States. … the urgency is as high as it’s ever been. I encourage everybody to go vote. I would vote if I could here in the states.
Moe Wagner

  • Jonathan Williams, Say Her Name
The reason behind it was because of the Breonna Taylor incident where she lost her life while she was sleeping in bed. I just want to say her name because I think that’s really important. We need to continue to praise our women and show them love.
Jonathan Williams

Read more on basketball:

Ridiculed and alone, Rudy Gobert was the face of coronavirus in sports. Now he’s ready to return.

With the NBA focused on social justice, White coaches say they’re stepping off the sidelines

Inside the NBA’s coronavirus response and its decision to suspend season

What’s it like in the NBA’s Disney bubble? For me, hotel room workouts and lots of time to think.

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