NBA fans may have noticed the social justice messages on the backs of the players’ jerseys as they compete inside the Orlando bubble. While many of the messages, such as “Black Lives Matter,” are clearer references to the current moment, some of the messages might not be obvious. One of these phrases, “Group Economics,” has baffled fans who haven’t paid attention to these movements from the get-go.
Social justice and NBA jerseys
The murder of George Floyd dominated headlines as the NBA was slated to return inside the Orlando bubble. Speculation abounded about how the league would react. Historically, the NBA is one of the friendliest leagues when it comes to athletes speaking their minds. But many worried the NBA’s return could draw attention away from the movement.
Social justice and the NBA have been especially connected over the past few years. After the murder of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, details ESPN, Martin’s death became a talking point among several players. Furthermore, after the 2014 death of Eric Garland at the hands of NYPD, players across the league began to wear his final words, “I can’t breathe,” on warm-up shirts.
Every year, social justice and the NBA have gotten closer entwined with one another. During a 2019 game in Sacramento, protesters shut down not one, but two games the Kings were supposed to play at the Golden 1 Center. That ended with a partnership with Black Lives Matter and a commitment from both the Kings and the league to take these matters seriously, details the New York Times.
With so much going on in 2020, the league took its most significant step in years. It allowed players to use their jerseys to call for change on several issues. It revealed a list of acceptable messages on the jerseys in the lead-up to the NBA’s return.
Players weren’t allowed to go off of a predetermined list for their messages. Jimmy Butler famously wanted to play without a name or a message, but the league quickly shut him down. The Undefeated compiled a list of all the acceptable names that the league allowed in an article about the matter.
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.
A lot of these names are straightforward references that do not need further understanding. However, one that got people’s attention was a call for something called “Group Economics.”
What are group economics?
Group economics refers to people in a given group that pour money within the groups to elevate the collective. Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver spoke to GQ about the importance of the movement. He referenced the surge in reference to Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Alabama.
“I look back at our history and see that that has happened in the past,” Tolliver told the magazine. “Black Wall Street in Tulsa, and multiple other instances, where when we banded together and implemented group economics to better our lives, it was burned down. And so that for me was another piece of this whole pie: not only representing and encouraging that again, but also bringing light to the history of us doing it and it being literally taken away from us, for nothing.”
Only three players took this message on their jersey: Tolliver, Andre Iguodala, and Jabari Parker. It serves as a call for the black community to come together. This shows the power these messages can hold and how they can be used to bring awareness to concepts that may not be mainstream.