When the New Orleans Pelicans take the floor in Orlando, fans will likely see more than their favorite players’ names on the back of the jersey.
Several members of the New Orleans Pelicans have been involved in social justice protests off the court and now they’ll be able to express themselves while they’re on the court as well.
Some players, notably Kyrie Irving, were against re-starting the season, as they thought it might distract from what has become one of the most important social movements of our time.
The optics weren’t good for the NBA, who didn’t want to be seen as profiting off the backs of young African Americans in the middle of protests about police brutality and gaining equal treatment under the law.
In an effort to give the players a platform, the NBA has decided to allow players to customize their jerseys with messages of social justice according to Shams Charania:
This could be anything from Black Lives Matter patches to individualized statements about race and social justice.
New Orleans Pelicans: NBA Players Have a Platform for Social Justice
The NBA is no stranger to these types of moments, as players like LeBron James wore shirts that read “I Can’t Breathe” in response to Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the NYPD.
The NBA has always been one of the more outspoken leagues when it comes to social issues involving race, including when players from the Los Angeles Clippers protested owner Donald Sterling after the release of taped conversations in which he used vile, racist language.
This move will certainly anger some, who feel that sports should be a distraction from divisive social issues and that players should just “shut up and dribble.”
But those days are over and players can and should use their platform to speak out. As humans and Americans they have the right to talk politics, just like anyone else.
Those who think not being racist is “divisive,” or that players shouldn’t have a platform, perhaps it’s time to find a new sport to watch or to follow their own advice and “shut up.”