A lot has happened since the NBA paused its season. The world is not only battling a global pandemic, but Americans have also been rallying for justice following murders of citizens at the hands of the police—including the death of George Floyd. These issues have created tensions that make some fans and players believe that there is more to be done than simply play basketball. To show its commitment to the cause and understanding of its platform, the league is reportedly considering allowing players to swap out their last names in exchange for social messages stitched to the back of their jerseys.
The NBA and NBA Players Association were tossing around the idea, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on Saturday night.
The news comes after several players were torn about restarting the season due to the current state of the country. Since the NBA solidified the bubble in Orlando, a coalition of players led by Kyrie Irving have been pushing for athletes to boycott the restart in hopes to prove to Americans that they are serious about societal change. Along with the current players that support the initiative, Stephen Jackson—who was close friends with George Floyd—thinks that NBA superstars should sit out in protest.
The pushback comes from players who believe that the league provides them a stage to speak their truths and opinions. Some players believe sitting out will only silence their voices when they are fighting to have these stories heard. Additionally, Austin Rivers noted that the revenue these games generate can go toward helping the Black Lives Matter movement and that every player isn't on a $141 million contract like Irving so they can't afford to take a year off.
Combining the desire to play with the need to touch on these social topics has seemingly led to discussions and the idea of putting messages on the back of their jerseys. Players have worn "I Can't Breathe" shirts and other forms of protest in the past. As a result, there will likely be a push for more tangible actions on behalf of the NBA by the Players Association.
Here's how fans are reacting to the potential jersey change.