Premier League players wore 'Black Lives Matter' messages on their shirts
The sporting world has joined issue with the 'Black Lives Matter' campaign across disciplines, like the Premier League football here, in the wake of George Floyd's death. Image Credit: Reuters

Los Angeles: With the NBA another day closer to its July 30 reopening, a piece of it’s plan to battle racial injustice fell into place.

The NBA and the players’ union agreed Friday on messages players can wear instead of their names on the backs of their ‘ jerseys for the first four days of the league’s reboot.

Among the approved messages, which several people confirmed to The Times: “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Vote,” “Justice,” “Stand Up,” “Listen,” “Listen to Us,” “Say Their Names,” “Peace,” “How Many More,” “Education Reform,” “Liberation,” “Equality,” “Freedom,” “Enough,” Si Se Puede,” “Say Her Name,” “Mentor,” “I Am A Man,” “Speak Up,” “Ally,” “Anti-Racist,” “Justice Now,” “Power to the People,” “See Us,” “Hear Us,” “Respect Us,” “Love Us,” and “Group Economics.”

After the first four days, players can keep the messages on their jerseys with their names below their number. Players also may forego messaging altogether.

“I just think the NBA, we lead,” Lakers forward Jared Dudley said. “I think [Commissioner] Adam Silver, to me, is the best. He’s trying to make it right, trying to bring awareness front and center. And for the players, we’re kind of like, ‘I don’t know if we should go there. We don’t know if the league would take over protests with a stance.’ And he’s basically giving us a platform, a stage.

Coco Gauff's Twitter video
US tennis player Coco Gauff was one of the first sportspersons to react to George Floyd's death with this stirring video. Image Credit: Twitter

“I know we’re going to do cool, different stuff, I even heard with commercials, not even with the court, and what they’re gonna be able to do. So with the names, I like it. I think it’s going to give people a different chance.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said coaches have “discussed ways that we can wear things visually, but also ways we can be very vocal and use our platform to help this movement.”

The NBA also will have “Black Lives Matter” printed on the courts in prominent locations, according to people familiar with the plans. The league and union also are discussing other plans to help players better use their platforms, including bringing in a series of guest speakers.

In the handbook provided to players for the resumption of the season, the NBA stated its intentions to use its return to amplify these issues.

“A central goal of our season restart will be to utilise the NBA’s platform to bring attention and sustained action to issues of social injustice, including combating systemic racism, expanding educational and economic opportunities across the Black community, enacting meaningful police and criminal justice reform and promoting greater civic engagement,” the league said on the second page of the handbook.

“We are in discussions with the Players Association to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the NBA, its teams and players can best address these important social issues and uniquely position our league to drive action and create meaningful and generational change.”

Despite such efforts, New Orleans guard JJ Redick said there’s no “comfort level” for players right now not in the middle of a deadly pandemic, and with so many people fighting for change.

“To say that we have any sort of comfort level would be a lie. There is no comfort level. We’re not with our families. We’re not at our homes. We’re isolated in a bubble in the middle of a hot spot in the middle of Florida while there’s social unrest in the country and we’re three months away potentially from the most important election in our lifetimes. So there’s all that going on,” Redick said Thursday.

- Los Angeles Times