The NBA is letting its hair down, allowing players to don social messages on their respective jerseys in yet another show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Los Angeles Times reports the NBA, the National Basketball Players Association and jersey provider Nike are working on getting players another tool to voice their support in the upcoming return of the season.
ESPN reports parties, “are collaborating to allow players to wear jerseys with personalized social justice, social cause or charity messages on the backs instead of their last names during the upcoming restart of the NBA season."
The language suggests a decision is yet to be finalized but the powers that be are working in a direction to allow something that has already taken place in other professional ranks.
Look no further than the English Premier League for what we might see. Its players returned to their previously halted season with a bold statement as teams kneeled prior to games and players donned “Black Lives Matter” where surnames once lived.
The decision for the NBA makes sense as, first, it’s the right thing to do. Two, public opinion has shifted immensely in favor of the BLM movement.
Lastly, there are players who are reluctant to enter the basketball fray with demonstrations demanding change still taking place.
Allowing players more of a platform does bring those hesitant players another avenue to voice their support.
Previous reports signaled a worry among players that starting the season now would curtail a lot of the momentum garnered by protests.
Alternatively, there are those players that do eye the return of basketball as an opportunity to get out in front of the American public and continue the fight.
“Just know that you’re going to continue to hear us. Just know that,” NBPA president and Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul said previously, via the L.A. Times. “It’s never a shut-up-and-dribble situation. You’re going to continue to hear us and see us.”
Shut up and dribble is a phrase coined by Fox News host Laura Ingraham who used it in reference to LeBron James whom she believed should stay out of the realm of politics and stick to basketball issues.
The line has been transformed into a rallying cry for athletes who understand and embrace the fact that we live in a culture where it’s no longer prudent to remain silent. Voicing concerns is increasingly paramount to the healing of so many ills coming to the forefront.
That phrase even worked its way into a Showtime documentary executive produced by LeBron James, a series dedicated to showing the “changing role of athletes in our fraught cultural and political environment, through the lens of the NBA.”
We are all forced to work in an insane situation. A global pandemic and rising tensions have us anxious and working in increasingly unorthodox conditions.
For the NBA player, they are being asked to leave homes and hunker down in what is, for lack of a better term, a Florida bubble situated among rising COVID-19 cases.
The backdrop remains a Black Lives Matter movement that continues to reshape the American landscape.
The NBA will have to remain malleable when it comes to issues on social change and cultural awareness.
As basketball returns, it will look and sound a lot different than when it took a pandemic hiatus. The important part now is to listen to the players.