NBA legend LeBron James has said he will not put any social justice messages on his jersey when the league returns to play later this month.
In a conference call with reporters on Saturday, he said none of the league-approved messages appealed to him and that his social justice efforts could not fully be captured by words on a jersey.
“It was no disrespect to the list that was handed down to all the players. I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal. I would have loved to have a say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey. I had a couple of things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK,” James said.
Rumors surfaced last month that NBA players were pushing to put the names of people killed by police on their jerseys. But over the past few weeks, some of the players have thrown cold water on the move citing a number of concerns, including receiving permission from the families of those lost to police brutality, according to ESPN.
The NBA wanted to work with players on ways to support the recent protests over the killing of George Floyd. Both sides came up with a list of 29 approved messages that players can put on the back of their jerseys.
According to the Associated Press, James is one of the few players that will not have a message on his jersey.
“Everything that I do has a purpose, has a meaning. I don’t need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I’m about and what I’m here to do,” James said during the call.
“This is the mission I’ve been on for a long time now. It’s great that a lot of people’s ears are opening. A lot of people are understanding, a lot of people are recognizing. A lot of people still don’t get it, and a lot of people are still afraid to talk about the racism that goes on in America, especially for our people. … But we have some ears, and we will continue to push the envelope and let everyone know that we are human as well. We don’t want to … just be used for our God-given abilities,” James added.
WNBA star Angel McCoughtry urged players to use their jerseys for good once play resumes. She released a petition and designs of a jersey with Breonna Taylor’s name on it.
Both leagues will be playing in Florida by the end of July, and players have said they want to use their platform to spread messages of social justice and reform.
JaVale McGee, a Los Angeles Lakers teammate of James, told the Associated Press that he will have “Respect us” on his jersey when the league comes back.
“It’s a blessing to have this platform. We have way more of a voice playing basketball. … Our fans are basketball fans over anything. This is the biggest platform we can speak about social injustices. That’s the best time to talk about it,” said McGee.
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will have “Equality” on his jersey, and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts told ESPN that 285 of the expected 350 eligible NBA players have chosen to put other words on their jerseys.
The players’ union and the league agreed on these phrases that could appear on any player’s jersey: Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can’t Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, Education Reform and Mentor.