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NBA players may be wearing messages on uniforms

Union president Chris Paul (left) and his fellow NBA players may be wearing more than their names on their uniforms when play returns next month.
Union president Chris Paul (left) and his fellow NBA players may be wearing more than their names on their uniforms when play returns next month.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

The NBA season, compressed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, is going to look a lot different, possibly right down to the jerseys players are wearing, when it resumes next month in Florida.

The players' union and the league are in talks about allowing players to use jerseys to send a message, whether it's about social justice or a charity, ESPN reported. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to continue to discuss how they could best use their platform to fight racism.

“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,” Chris Paul, president of the NBPA, told The Undefeated. “People are saying that social justice will be off everybody’s mind in Orlando. With these jerseys, it doesn’t go away.”

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“Black Lives Matter” or “I can’t breathe” messages may be sent when the season resumes July 30 after a pandemic-caused hiatus, an extension of the activism NBA players have long shown when it comes to social injustice and police brutality. For instance, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat posed in hoodies after Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in 2012. James and his fellow players have continued to speak up over the years, the latest examples coming this year following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor.

“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.”

The Oklahoma City guard and athletes in the NBA and other sports have taken part in marches after Floyd’s May 25 death, and Paul acknowledged that some players might choose to wear the names of those who have been killed, with the approval of the families of Arbery, Brooks, Floyd, Taylor, and others.

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“I was just thinking about how forward-thinking our league is and how passionate the players in our league are about different issues,” Paul said. “Our guys have been marching on the front lines and using their platforms. If guys are choosing to come down to Orlando to make sacrifices and play this game, why not be able to play and still say his or her name at the same time?

“At marches they are saying, ‘Say his name . . . George Floyd. Say her name . . . Breonna Taylor.' "