Report: NBA to let players replace names on jerseys with social justice statement in Florida

When the NBA attempts to resume its season next month at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, the league will allow players to have a say in customizing their jerseys.

Players, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, will be able to replace the last name on their jerseys with a statement on social justice. 

The Players Association reportedly sent initial details of the plan to players on Saturday night, and is currently working with both the league and Nike on how to implement it. 

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

The NBA will officially resume play on July 30 after what will be a nearly-four month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restart plan was officially approved on Friday, and the league dropped the “seeding games” schedule later that afternoon. Though the coronavirus pandemic is a growing cause of concern — especially given the sharp spike in cases both in Florida and across the country — the NBA has created a 113-page health and safety protocol designed to help keep everyone involved safe.

Players have been extremely vocal about social justice issues in recent weeks, stemming from George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody in May. Several players, led most notably by Kyrie Irving, even advocated that they not play in Florida due to the Black Lives Matter movement — as doing so could distract from the progress that has been made. 

However others, reportedly including LeBron James, feel that playing the rest of the season could have a greater impact than not. While replacing names on the backs of their jerseys with statements isn’t a massive change — and will certainly have limits — it’s a positive step for players who wish to express themselves and speak out.

When the season resumes in Florida next month, the NBA will allow at least one creative way for players to speak out about social justice. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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