1 Player Just Called the NBA Out for Its Lack of Social Justice Messages

When the NBA resumes its 2019-20 season at the end of July, fans will see some players wearing social justice messages on their back of their jerseys. The players have about 30 messages that they can choose from that the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association have approved together. However, Norman Powell of the Toronto Raptors thinks the that league doesn’t have enough messages. 

The NBA and NBPA agreed on social justice messages

NBA players will have the opportunity to wear social justice messages during the restart. One Toronto Raptors player isn't happy, though.
A detailed view of the NBA logo painted on the wooden floor boards of the court prior to the start of the Toronto Raptors’ game against the Dallas Mavericks in 2018. | Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in May and Breonna Taylor’s death in March, both happening at the hands of police officers, many NBA players have become more dedicated to fighting systemic racism. The NBA and the NBPA even announced an agreement in June to continue to discuss fighting it and to make it a focus of the league’s restart, according to ESPN

Then in July, the two sides agreed on social justice messages that players can wear on the back of their jerseys during the season restart. They will be placed above the number during the first four days of the restart. 

Players do not have to use the space for a social justice message, though, and can just have their names displayed there. After the first four nights, players who chose to wear messages can go back to their last names. If they want to continue showing a message after that, though, their last name will just go below the number, ESPN reported. The players can also have a first and second choice for the messages that they want to wear. 

According to ESPN, the list of social justice messages that were agreed upon include: 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.

Norman Powell called the NBA out for its lack of social justice messages

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Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell was recently asked about having the freedom of deciding what goes on the back of his jersey taken away from him after the NBA and NBPA agreement. 

“I was really disappointed in the options that were given to us,” Powell said, according to Complex. “First and foremost, I feel like with a topic just like this—social justice—that we’re fighting for, the fact that we were boxed-in to a list of 28, 29 sayings was really unfortunate. We’ve got a lot of guys in this league that have a voice and have been using their voice through this time and were really excited about the whole thing about being able to change our last names, and put a quote there that represents where we stand and what we want to say and how we feel about this.”

He continued to say, “I was really upset about the whole change and how we’re really limited. I feel the list was really cookie-cutter, and really doesn’t touch the topics of what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Even though he is disappointed, Powell will wear “Black Lives Matter” on his jersey. According to Complex, if he had been able to choose, though, he would have worn “Am I Next?”

Can Norman Powell and the Toronto Raptors make it back to the Finals?

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Heading into the season, not many people gave the Raptors a chance after losing Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers. Leonard just won Finals MVP last season as he helped lead the team to an NBA championship.

However, the Raptors have continued to dominate without him. Heading into the season restart, they are 46-18, which is good for second in the Eastern Conference, and the third-best record in the entire NBA.

Powell is a reason they have continued to win too. In his first four seasons, Powell averaged 7.1 points per game. This season, however, Powell is averaging 16.4 points per game. The Raptors have four other guys who can score too. Serge Ibaka is averaging 16 points and 8.3 rebounds; Fred VanVleet is averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists; Kyle Lowry is averaging 19.7 points, and 7.7 assists and Pascal Siakam is averaging 23.6 points per game and 7.5 rebounds. 

The main team standing in their way in the Eastern Conference is the Milwaukee Bucks, led by the reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. If everyone on the Raptors can play well, though, they certainly have a shot at reaching the NBA Finals again. And who knows, maybe they’ll play Kawhi Leonard.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference