NBA may let players replace names on jerseys with social justice messages

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The Premier League returned on June 17 with players replacing the names on the backs of their jerseys with the message “Black Lives Matter.” The NBA may be doing something similar.

Via Marc J. Spears of’s The Undefeated, NBPA president and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul said that management and labor are working together to allow players to replace the names on their jerseys with messages of “personalized social justice, social cause or charity.”

As noted by Spears, this creates a wide variety of potential messages beyond “Black Lives Matter.” Players could display “I Can’t Breathe” or the names of persons who were killed by police officers.

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

If the NBA permits alteration of the jerseys, the question becomes whether other sports leagues will do the same, specifically the NFL. The NFL tends to have a little OCD when it comes to the uniform, with the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign becoming a fairly recent (and very limited) relaxation of the rules regarding shoes.

At a minimum, players should have the ability to wear messages on their cleats all season long.  Another possibility would be jersey patches carrying the “Black Lives Matter” message. It would be a surprise if the NFL allows the names on jerseys to be altered — in large part because that could reduce the demand for the existing worldwide inventory of player jerseys with their names on the back.

In the unlikely event the NFL allows players to replace the names on their jerseys with social justice messages, the NFL surely would insist on approving the potential universe of names and messages. And then the NFL would be faced with multiple players proposing “Kaepernick” as the name on the back of their jerseys. And then the NFL would either have to let that happen, or deal with word getting out that the NFL slammed the door on that possibility.

Thus, from the NFL’s perspective, the door needs to be slammed on the possibility of replacing player names on jerseys well before it gets to the point of negotiating the specific messages that the NFL would permit.

15 responses to “NBA may let players replace names on jerseys with social justice messages

  1. Appreciate the forward thinking but the will turn away most rational fans. This agenda that we are awful and need more awareness is misguided.

  2. Is whole bubble-in-Orlando thing even viable anymore with Florida cases skyrocketing?

  3. Of course they are. That league is run by LeBron James and not their commissioner

  4. The Premier League did it right with one message for all. What the NBA is doing has the same problem you suggest the NFL avoids. If the players want to do something like this, the NFL should work with them on a unified message. They’ve done the helmet decal before. They used to do pink for a week. They recently started with camouflage. The NFL knows how to support causes in a united way.

  5. Perhaps they should just change their names like OchoCinco did.

    That’s real commitment.

  6. Messages on cleats seem to be perfectly appropriate and the way to go. Name changes, patches, etc are formal and interfering with the purpose of why these things get exposure in the first place: the competition on the field. The NBA is different, but people don’t tune into football because the players have especially worthwhile opinions…names on jerseys or patches would just be imposed on fans who generally are only “there” to watch football. But cleat messages are subtle and yet would still get the attention that some wish, and there is a history of people writing on cleats. It’s all informal, not requiring tailored alteration of uniform/equipment, and so works.

  7. Not really big news here. Nike wants its for sure so they tell LeBron and company to endorse and demand it.

  8. Call me old school, but sports should be about sports and not a platform for political messages. Athletes have plenty of opportunities to speak up at other times and their “name recognition” will give weight to their comments. If the NFL really wanted to help they would highlight the work done by black players to help their communities. Action speaks louder than words. Instead of donating to causes that seek to divide us start donating to the charities and foundations that have boots on the ground to give a helping had to those who need it most.

  9. That should make the play-by-play announcing very interesting: defund the police–over to black lives matter–bounce pass to open borders, the 3 pointer is good–and a foul on abolish fossil fuels

  10. Grandstanding to bring more attention to themselves. The players of the nba are so self absorbed that I had to stop watching it about 5 years ago. I really couldn’t care less.

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