The NBA and NBPA are still discussing various ways for players and the league to continue being active and vocal in advocating for social justice while in the Orlando bubble for the league’s in July.
Concerns over the NBA and WNBA’s restart distracting from player activism regarding the swelling Black Lives Matter movement that continues to see protests of police brutality, systemic racism, and inequality around the country have led to some players wondering if they should skip the restarted seasons in Florida. A number of WNBA players, including Chiney Ogwumike, Renee Montgomery, and Natasha Cloud, have already made their intentions to skip the 2020 season to continue fighting for social justice.
While that has yet to be the top, stated reason for any of the NBA players that have opted out of the restart, Avery Bradley and Garrett Temple have both been vocal about concerns of the restart distracting from the movement and have since opted out, both citing the health of their family as a priority.
For those that do plan on joining the bubble, there’s still work being done figuring out what players can do on the court to use the platform of playing games to keep the message at the forefront. One such idea gaining traction in the NBA and WNBA, which originated with a petition started by Angel McCoughtry of the Las Vegas Aces, is to allow players to put a message, phrase, or name of someone who has been a victim of police brutality on their jersey in place of their name. On Sunday, Ja Morant reposted a photoshop someone made of his jersey that says “F*ck 12,” referring to the police, which naturally caused a bit of a stir.
Morant would later post a statement with an apology later that night, noting it doesn’t “clearly and accurately convey what I wanted to share,” and that he wants to focus on the bad cops that murder unarmed Black men and women and harass protesters.
While posting the initial photoshop was always going to lead to backlash towards Morant from certain fans, it was good to see Morant clarify what he meant while making it clear that focus should remain on police brutality and the numerous, unnecessary lives lost to police violence. The apology didn’t fall into typical tropes of calling those that abuse their power “a few bad apples,” because if we’ve learned anything in recent weeks by how police departments have handled protests, that’s simply not the case. The issue is systemic and highlighting the good work done by some police is important, but it’s also important not to lose sight of the fact that the problems are ingrained in the system and run deep in many police departments, which must be addressed.
It’ll be interesting to see what messaging players choose to put on their jerseys, and maybe moreso, what the NBA allows on jerseys, should the league, union, and Nike come to an agreement on doing so.