Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association, told ESPN’s The Undefeated that the union and the league are collaborating to allow players to wear specialized jerseys with a personalized message of social justice, social cause or charity in the return instead of last names during the next restart of the season.
The NBA custom jerseys with a statement is one of a long list of social justice messages that players plan to do when the league restarts in Orlando, Florida on July 30 for the remainder of the season. The NBA and NBPA announced an agreement last Wednesday to continue the discussion toward fighting systemic racism and making it one of the main goals of the restart. These custom shirts could say things like “Black Lives Matter” or “I Can’t Breathe,” shed light on a social or charitable cause, or even bear the name of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, both African-Americans who were killed by police in the last months.
“We are just trying to continue to shed light on the different social justice issues that the boys in our league continue to talk about day after day,” Paul told The Undefeated. “People say social justice will be out of everyone’s mind in Orlando. With these shirts, it doesn’t go away.”
NBA players heavily involved in protests across the country, vocal on social media, and involved in the aftermath of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis on May 25 and Taylor’s death in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13 at the hands from the police. For those players who prefer to publicize cause or charity on their jerseys that are unrelated to social injustice, police brutality, or other racial issues, Paul said they will be accepted, too. Paul, whose Thunder will play in the NBA reboot, said he hasn’t decided what he would want on the back of his shirt.
Paul said he has spoken to numerous players, including those who are not black, who support the idea for the shirt. Paul said players will not be forced and pressured to wear shirts with a message of social justice. Suggestions will also be offered to players looking for a cause to fall behind with their shirts. NBA commissioner Adam Silver told a news conference on Friday that the league “has work to do” to advance the hiring of African-Americans in notable roles and the need for diversity was discussed at a recent Board meeting. of Governors. The NBA was 74.9 percent black during the 2018-19 season, according to the 2019 NBA Full Race and Gender Report published by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida last Wednesday.
“The guys I spoke to were definitely excited,” said Paul, 35. “The reason I am passionate and enthusiastic is that it gives a voice to those who don’t have it. It also gives boys the opportunity to illuminate something they are passionate about. Otherwise, they may not have been given the opportunity to express yourself. “
Paul has protested peacefully at a Black Lives Matter event in Los Angeles and has spoken on social media about racial injustice and police brutality. The 15-year NBA veteran is hopeful that the jerseys will spark more conversation about each player’s social message or the cause featured on the back of his jersey in media interviews. Paul also says that the NBPA plans to respectfully reach out to the families of people like Floyd, Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin and others who have died to obtain their permission and blessing to use their names on the back of NBA jerseys.
“I was thinking about how progressive our league is and how passionate our league players are about different issues,” said Paul. “Our boys have been marching on the front line and using their platforms. If the boys choose to come to Orlando to make sacrifices and play this game, why not be able to play and say their name at the same time?
“At the marches they say, ‘Say your name … George Floyd. Say your name … Breonna Taylor.’ Obviously, we have to communicate with families to see if that’s okay.”