George Floyd

Report: NBA, NBPA agree to social justice messages for jerseys during restart

Report: NBA, NBPA agree to social justice messages for jerseys during restart

The NBA and NBPA have come to an agreement on social justice-related messages players can display on the backs of their jerseys when the league resumes play in Orlando on July 30, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears reports.

Here is the list of ("suggested") approved terms, according to Spears:

Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can't Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor

Per Spears, players will have the choice to brandish said messages above the number on the backs of their jerseys in place of their names for the first four days of the restart. From there, messages will still be permitted, but with players’ last names included underneath. TBD if more messages are to come.

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The Premier League provides some precedent for this initiative; all players participating in its season restart, which began on June 17, are donning jerseys with “Black Lives Matter” on the back in place of their names.

Meanwhile, prominent NBA players including Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley have voiced concerns that play resuming could distract from the fight against racial injustice. Others contend that the attention the league’s restart will command can be leveraged into advocating for change. 

Ultimately, the league has left that assessment up to players on an individual basis. Commissioner Adam Silver has publicly said the NBA is deliberating on social justice programming for the bubble, and future investment in social justice causes, though no concrete plans have been made public. On June 24, the NBA and NBPA announced in a joint statement that leadership of both sides had met to “further advance the league’s collective response to the social justice issues in our country.”

“I think ultimately we can accomplish a lot (for social justice causes) by playing,” Silver said on a panel with Caron Butler, Magic Johnson and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in June. “But as I said, I know there’s some roiling going on within the Players Association, and I respect the point of view of those who are saying let’s make sure that in returning to basketball, a larger, broader message about social equality, racial issues are not somehow lost.”

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Report: NBA planning to paint 'Black Lives Matter' on courts during restart

Report: NBA planning to paint 'Black Lives Matter' on courts during restart

The NBA is planning to paint "Black Lives Matter" on the courts of the three arenas it uses for its 22-team season restart at the Walt Disney World Resort, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Zach Lowe reported.

The full report said that the league plans to emblazon the message across both on the inside of both sidelines. Lowe added in a tweet it would be visible near center court. The WNBA is also discussing painting "Black Lives Matter" on the courts at the IMG Academy for its season restart, but plans don't appear to be finalized yet.


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NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the league will prioritize giving players a platform to continue fighting for social justice during the restart amid multiple players — including Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley — voicing concerns that revving the league back up would serve only as a distraction from global protests, demonstrations and community action in the wake of George Floyd's death.

This report comes days after The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the league will allow players to print social justice-related messages of their choosing on the backs of their jerseys during play.


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WNBA player Angel McCoughtry’s social justice proposal for team jerseys

WNBA player Angel McCoughtry’s social justice proposal for team jerseys

In recent weeks, dialogue surrounding the return of basketball has centered on one vital consideration: Whether jumpstarting the NBA and WNBA seasons would distract from the fight for social justice. 

On Friday, Renee Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream became the first post-pandemic player from either league to announce she would sit out the WNBA’s 2020 campaign, which is currently scheduled to begin in late July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to continue pursuing social justice reform. (Note: In January, Maya Moore announced her intent to skip a second straight season to continue her work in the area of criminal justice reform.) 

In the NBA, Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley — among others — have spearheaded a push to consider the possibility that sports returning might expedite a return to normalcy the country can’t currently afford, and draw players away from the opportunity to take action in their communities.

 

Others, like Ed Davis of the Utah Jazz, have argued the merits of playing ball, particularly given the possibly irrevocable financial ramifications of leaving the season unfinished. 

Some have also argued there is potential for both leagues to leverage their spot at the center of the American sports universe to bring increased awareness to the fight against racial injustice. The NBA has pledged to concoct a plan in conjunction with the NBPA to that end, and WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike said in a statement that announced the beginning of the league’s restart plan that the WNBA would use its season to “amplify our collective voice,” citing past advocacy for Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ+ community, gun control, voting rights, #MeToo and mental health.

Now, Angel McCoughtry of the Las Vegas Aces has posited a concrete idea of a way to bring that mission onto the court. McCoughtry posted on her Instagram account multiple prototype designs of her Aces No. 35 jersey — one marked by Breonna Taylor’s name, one with George Floyd’s and one with “Black Lives Matter.”

View this post on Instagram

I will be playing this upcoming @wnba and I am looking forward to continue to fight social injustice issues while playing and supporting front line workers. ⠀ ⠀ I am currently working with the @lvaces and @wnba to use our voices, our uniforms, and our sport to continue to impact and create real change. I am creating a petition (LINK IN BIO) to allow players the ability to put the FIRST & LAST NAME of HUMAN BEINGS that who have been injured or KILLED in incidents involving POLICE BRUTALITY! Even Front line workers during the pandemic The goal is also to create a relationship with the families of who’s name the athlete has chosen. This is a way to use our platform to be a helping hand during these trying times. Silence is an ally for EVIL and when sports resume WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. ⠀ ⠀ #SayTheirNames ⠀ #blacklivesmatter ⠀ #thetimeisnow

A post shared by Angel McCoughtry #35 (@mccoughtry) on

 

“I am currently working with the [Las Vegas Aces] and [WNBA] to use our voices, our uniforms, and our sport to continue to impact and create real change,” McCoughtry said in the post, adding that she plans to participate in the 2020 WNBA season. “I am creating a petition to allow players the ability to put the FIRST & LAST NAME of HUMAN BEINGS that who have been injured or KILLED in incidents involving POLICE BRUTALITY! Even Front line workers during the pandemic. 

“The goal is also to create a relationship with the families of who’s name the athlete has chosen. This is a way to use our platform to be a helping hand during these trying times.”

The Premier League resumed its season June 17 with every player donning jerseys with “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned across the back, so there’s precedent here. And it certainly would be an omnipresent part of the viewing experience for basketball fans watching from home.

Surely, it won’t be the last innovation to be floated by advocacy-minded players and other stakeholders in either league. But it’s the start of what could be an impactful campaign to bring awareness to issues of racial injustice in tandem with the return of American sports.

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