NBA to allow “social justice message” on jerseys

A few days ago reports emerged that the NFL is going to play the “black national anthem” to show its solidarity with the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Now, the NBA is following suit.

ESPN reports that the National Basketball Association (NBA) is going to allow players to put “social justice messages” on their jerseys. 

“Collective action”

The NBA and its Players’ Association have recently been in talks, not about how to get professional basketball to its fan amid the coronavirus, but about how to use basketball to address the systemic racism that many believe exists here in America.

“The group that met agreed in principle that the goal of the season restart in Orlando will be to take collective action to combat systemic racism and racial inequality across the country,” a joint statement from the NBA and NBA Players’ Association read.

You didn’t read that wrong. Apparently, basketball this year will not be about providing entertainment to fans, but about “combat[ing] systemic racism and racial inequality across the country.”

From Entertainment to Activism

To go along with this goal, the league and players’ association have now come to an agreement that players will be able to put social justice messages on their jersey’s above their numbers.

ESPN provided a list of some of the messages that have already been approved. These include:

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.

These messages will be allowed to appear on the players’ jerseys for the first four days of the basketball season, which starts on July 30th.

After that, the players have two options: They can go back to wearing a standard jersey with their last names and numbers or they can continue wearing a jersey with a social justice message. In this latter case, their names would go below their numbers.

Sports this year

Along with this, the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league will be playing the “black national anthem” before all week 1 football games. So, both the NFL and NBA have pledged their support to “Black Lives Matter,” and apparently both will be promoting the group and its beliefs throughout their seasons. The question now is how will fans respond.

I know that when I watch sports, I just want to be entertained, not have a political opinion shoved down my throat, certainly not one that is wrong and with which I disagree. The NBA and NFL, after all, provide an easy counterargument to the claim that there is pervasive and systemic racism at a high level. If racism was as bad here in America as Black Lives Matter supporters say it is (and let’s not miss the irony that most of these sports stars are such supporters), then surely such racism would also dominate professional sports, where stars make more money over the course of one season than most of us will see in a lifetime. Could it be that those leagues – like just about everything else in our country’s history – are based on merit?

So, now, I can either watch the NFL and NBA, which from the players to league management to the commentators, are going to be nothing more than advertisers for Black Lives Matter or I can not watch and save myself a lot of frustration. That’s an easy decision.

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