With seeding games set to begin tonight in the official resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, the league released the full list of which social justice messages would be worn by which players. As players seek to keep focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives, the ability to select from a pre-negotiated list was one of the solutions the NBPA and NBA sought collectively. We learned earlier this month that Matisse Thybulle would be wearing “Vote” on his jersey; now, here’s the entire list from the Sixers roster, per NBA.com:
Alec Burks | Enough
Furkan Korkmaz | Equality
Raul Neto | Equality
Kyle O’Quinn | Hear Us
Josh Richardson | Say Their Names
Matisse Thybulle | Vote
Notably, with six players participating, the Sixers have the fewest players utilizing the jersey messages of any of the 22 NBA teams in the bubble. One team that stood out to me as interesting was the Dallas Mavericks, with every player wearing the word “Equality,” including four instances in languages other than English.
Of course, there were mixed feelings about the list from which players were allowed to choose. Recall that Mike Scott came out strongly opposed to the list:
Mike Scott: "I don't know, they gave us some names and phrases to put on the back of jerseys. That was terrible. It was a bad list, bad choice, they didn't give players a chance to voice their opinion. They just gave us a list to pick from. So that was bad, that's terrible."— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) July 6, 2020
Al Horford was more diplomatic in describing his decision not to participate, but ultimately came at it from a similar viewpoint as Scott, per the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“I kind of understand and share Mike Scott’s sentiment a little bit. Even though it’s a great platform for us to promote things, I think that maybe (you should) have the ability to say what you would want to say and leave it like that. But at the end of the day, everyone … makes their own decision. Whatever they feel is right, whatever they want to do.”
Ultimately, these jersey messages are just one small gesture. The Sixers broadcast referred to Tobias Harris as the “conscience of the team” during Tuesday night’s scrimmage. He recently called attention to Breonna Taylor during his media availability, and has donated both time and money to various charities and social justice causes even just during his relatively short time in Philadelphia. That sort of commitment has a much larger impact than his choice of whether or not to wear a jersey message.
NBA games that count return today and the majority of the league’s players will have something other than their names on their backs. Just another way 2020 is completely different.