Earlier this month, players like Kyrie Irving wondered how the NBA could further our national dialogue by bringing attention to “Black Lives Matter” and other social justice causes during its upcoming three-month stay in Orlando. While Irving and others were skeptical of playing amid protests and societal unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s unconscionable murder in Minneapolis, LeBron James argued that players could still make their voices heard while playing out the remainder of the 2019-20 slate.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne, the NBA—which has been among the most progressive leagues in decrying systemic racism and social inequality—plans to have “Black Lives Matter” painted on each of its three courts at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando when play resumes on July 30. Players will also have a chance to make a statement on their uniforms with personalized messages in lieu of last names. The WNBA, which will stage its season under bubble conditions at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, hopes to shine a similar light on social justice with players planning to don warm-up shirts bearing the phrase “Say Her Name,” an obvious reference to Breona Taylor and other female victims of police brutality.
Despite widespread turmoil and escalating tensions in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, the support of Black Lives Matter has already spurred tangible change with many prominent organizations choosing to remove statues and names associated with past racism. The NBA, led by its predominantly African American player body, has been at the forefront of this movement with dozens of high-profile players including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Trae Young participating in local rallies.
The focus will soon shift to basketball as 22 teams head to Orlando in pursuit of an elusive NBA title, but don’t expect the players competing to be any less vocal as the fights for racial equality and justice for George Floyd continue in earnest.