When the National Basketball Association picks up where it left off before it stopped play, it wants its players to be able to let their opinions be known on the back of their jerseys. That’s just so long as their opinion fits in a preapproved list offered by the league.
Players have a total of 29 league-approved ways to express themselves by replacing their name above the number on the rear of the jersey during the first four days of the restarted season, which begins July 30.
The list was hashed out by the NBA and the National Basketball Player’s Association, according to a story first reported Saturday by ESPN.
It probably goes without saying that none of them is “I Stand With Hong Kong.” What’s truly astounding, however, is that almost all 29 tilt to the left.
Here’s the full list of NBA-approved messages you can send the fans when the league reconvenes at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida: “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.”
One of the slogans has appeared on NBA stars’ attire before: LeBron James and others wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during warmups in December 2014 to protest the death of Eric Garner in police custody.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 9, 2014
If players don’t want to limit themselves to those messages or they don’t want to pick something tepidly vague like “Mentor,” they can always just go with their last name. If they want to keep a league-approved message after the four-day period, it’ll be put below the number on the back.
ESPN had previously reported that the names of the individuals whose deaths precipitated this spate of national unrest won’t be used because it would be difficult to get the approval of their families.
“We’re just trying to continue to shed light on the different social justice issues that guys around our league continue to talk about day in and day out,” said players union president Chris Paul, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando,” he said. “With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”
No, but the fact that this is social justice filtered through some very careful PR work on the NBA’s part probably won’t go away, either.
Paul insisted that the players, at least, are excited about the messages on the back of the jerseys.
“The guys I talked to were definitely excited,” Paul said. “The reason I’m passionate and excited about it is that it gives a voice to the voiceless. It also gives guys a chance to shine a light on something they are passionate about. Otherwise, they may not have been given a chance to express themselves.”
Apparently, two of the guys he talked to weren’t Mike Scott of the Philadelphia 76ers or Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.
“They gave us some names and phrases to put on the back of jerseys. That was terrible. It was just a bad miss, a bad choice,” Scott said during a conference call on Monday, according to ESPN. “They didn’t give players a chance to voice our opinions on it; they just gave us a list to pick from. So that was bad, that was terrible.
“I’m all about just doing, instead of saying and posting, or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything, you know?”
Brown also thought the list was too restrictive.
“I would like to see — because I think it can still happen — more options available to put on the back of our jerseys,” the Celtics swingman said Monday, according to NBC Sports.
“We understand anything vulgar our league doesn’t necessarily represent, but for histories and causes such as now, I think that that list is an example of a form of limitation. I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more.”
Brown added that he “was very disappointed in the list that was agreed to. I think things were tried and attempts were made to add to that list, but the NBA agreed that that list was satisfactory. Hopefully we can get some more names on that list.”
The news comes after a report in late June that the league would be painting “Black Lives Matter” on the courts — because apparently empty sloganeering and proving how the left dominates culture is what the season is going to be about going forward.
I’m guessing that the pool of NBA players isn’t exactly a buzzing hive of conservatism waiting to unleash itself upon the public if only given the venue to express itself.
Even at that level, creating a pool of preapproved responses on the left spectrum on the equation because the players can’t be trusted to add their own is a truly staggering admission of just what the league and those who negotiate on behalf of their players think of those making the choices.
My guess is that this makes no one happy.
Conservatives are probably going to believe this had something to do with the NBA handcuffing right-leaning messages from showing up on the back (unlikely) and to stop messages critical of China (far more likely).
Liberals are going to believe, not unreasonably, that this is about stopping more controversial messages from cropping up.
Either way, this new policy is going to engender more outrage than solidarity, providing another object lesson that controlled wokeness apparently works for nobody.
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