As the result of an agreement between the NBA and National Basketball Players’ Association, players participating in the upcoming season restart in Orlando will be allowed to replace the last name on the back of their jerseys with certain statements pertaining to social justice. A report from Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times pointed out that this move is being done in conjunction with Nike, who serves as the athletic wear sponsor of the NBA.
The list of the messages approved for the back of jerseys is as follows, per ESPN‘s Marc J. Spears:
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.
The players previously decided not to use the names of those that have died in police custody on the backs of their jerseys out of respect for the families. Players don’t have to replace their names with a message if they don’t want to, but many likely will. Also, players can opt to have a message along with their last name, which would go underneath the message, after the first four nights.
In recent years, the NBA and its players have been quick to adopt relevant aesthetics in the face of the social injustice around this country being in the national consciousness, particularly to Black Americans. Following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York police, players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kyrie Irving wore shirts that read “I Can’t Breathe” — Garner’s final words. Players have also been vocal about the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Nike has also pushed to attach anti-racism messaging into its advertising, creating a commercial that encourages viewers to not ignore the problem of systemic racism in America in the wake of George Floyd’s death. While NBA teams can have multiple iterations of their jerseys for the season, the nameplate is often left untouched. The last time it was changed, however, came in 2014, when the NBA released jerseys that would have the nicknames of players on the back instead of their last names.