“Black Lives Matter.” “Say Their Names.” “I Can’t Breathe.” These are just a few of the messages the NBA has permitted players to wear on the back of their uniforms when play resumes in the Orlando bubble later this month. Others include, “Justice Now,” “Power to the People,” “How Many More,” “Say Her Name,” “Listen to Us,” “I Am a Man,” “Speak Up,” “Stand Up,” “Group Economics” and “Education Reform.” According to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, the words “Ally,” “Anti-Racist,” “Enough,” “Equality,” “Freedom,” “Justice,” “Liberation,” “Listen,” “Mentor,” “Peace” and “Vote” can also be used in lieu of players’ last names.
The NBA and its players union had discussed honoring George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police brutality by name, but ultimately elected not to. According to Spears, this was partially because the NBA anticipated challenges in gaining permission from surviving family members.
Participating players will be able to submit their first and second choices to the league. Players can wear their approved messages for the first four nights of seeding games, which begin on July 30. Teams will revert to their regular uniforms after that, though players who are so inclined can still feature messages, albeit with their last names underneath.
Along with the option to display personal messages, the NBA also plans to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts of each of its three arenas. Keeping players and staff safe amid the coronavirus remains the league’s top priority in Orlando, though promoting social change would have to be a close second.