Although the NBA and NBPA agreed to restart the 2019-20 season, there was concern and even opposition from a players’ coalition about participating due to the shadow it could put over the revitalized Black Lives Matter movement and other pursuits for social justice.
After engaging in dialogue, the NBA and NBPA agreed to allow the players the option to pick from a list of approve messages and wear them on their jerseys for the remaining games. The list contained 29 messages, with some of the prominent choices being “Black Lives Matter” “Say Their Names” and “I Can’t Breathe.”
For the Los Angeles Lakers, several prominent members opted not to pick a message. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Dwight Howard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo all chose to keep their last names on their jerseys.
“I actually didn’t go with a name on the back of my jersey. It’s no disrespect to the list that was handed out to all the players. I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey,” James noted.
“It’s just something that didn’t really serious resonate with my mission, with my goal.
Meanwhile, Davis cited his surname as something he wanted to preserve. “For me, I think the name ‘Davis’ is something I try to represent every time I step on the floor; my family,” he said.
“I was torn between the two. I didn’t know what to decide. I just think my last name is something that is very important to. Social justice is as well, but just holding my family name will be represented as we go through this process.
“It’s the name of people who built me my entire career to get to this point.”
While the superstar duo chose not to wear a message, 10 other Lakers made their picks before the team’s first official restart game against the L.A. Clippers.
Kostas Antetokounmpo (Peace)
Devontae Cacok (Justice Now)
Alex Caruso (Black Lives Matter)
“They gave us the list of phrases to put on the back of jerseys, so I took some time and looked at them. I went through the ones that I thought would be important to me and impactful to wear,” Caruso explained.
“I thought about the people that look up to me, the people that watch me play and the people that tell me on Instagram, Twitter, random spots in L.A. or back home, that they look up to me and I’m an inspiration to them with where I’ve gotten and the way I play. A lot of those things went into.
“‘Black Lives Matter’ seemed to be the one that just struck a chord with me and I thought would be the most impactful.”
Quinn Cook (Say Their Names)
Danny Green (How Many More)
“All those messages mean a lot to me and they all speak out about what’s going on in the world. Basketball and sports in our everyday lives is important, but the bigger picture for us is getting the justices that are deserved for those in our community and around the world,” Green said.
“‘How Many More,’ our fans picked it but it was one of the ones I chose because it speaks out. How many more people of color are going to get killed or die at the hands of police brutality? How many more families are going to get denied housing? How many more Black men and women are going to get denied certain job opportunities? The list goes on.”
Talen Horton-Tucker (Black Lives Matter)
JaVale McGee (Respect Us)
“I definitely feel like respect is a key factor in social injustices. I feel like we definitely need to get equality and the same respect everybody else does,” McGee said. “It’s just a blessing to have this platform and the NBA doing everything to help also. I’m really excited about it.”
Markieff Morris (Education Reform)
JR Smith (Justice Now)
Dion Waiters (Black Lives Matter)
“Everything that’s going on, I feel like it’s a key moment in life right now for us to make a huge impact on and off the court,” Waiters said.
“Just letting everybody know what’s at hand and how big it is. Just because basketball is back, you can’t forget about the most important thing that went on this year.”
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