In advance of their scrimmage tonight against Houston, the Raptors have made (semi-)official what each player will be wearing on the back of their jersey while playing tonight.
Here’s the list of Toronto players and their chosen message, thanks to the Athletic’s Blake Murphy:
Here's the message each Raptor will wear on their jersey: pic.twitter.com/zD3SalYCeF— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) July 24, 2020
If you’re keeping count: that’s seven Black Lives Matters, two Say Their Names, two Speak Ups, an Education Reform, an Equality, a Justice, a Respect Us, a See Us, and, with typical Serge Ibaka flair, a Respectez Biso. All reference in some way the current political (and protest) climate in America and many other parts of the world, which is instructive. Still, this isn’t exactly what we expected when the NBA first announced the idea of letting players wear what they wanted on the backs of their jerseys — this is just what we got.
It sounded like a good idea when first announced — a half-measure, but still something. As they prepared to head into the Orlando bubble to finish the season, the NBA did indeed nod towards that aforementioned political climate by announcing they would allow players to wear words other than their names on the backs of their jerseys. Given how outspoken many players — from big name stars down to the rank-and-file of the league — have become about issues such as social justice, education, voting rights, and racism, this seemed like a good thing.
But then the NBA and NBPA cleared a very narrow list of approved messages, which sort of undermined their entire purpose. A protest or political messages are often only as useful as the discomfort they create. So, while it’s good for more and more people out there to be aware and reminded of, say, Breonna Taylor or the fight against facism going on right now in Oregon, it’s clear these jersey messages will only do that job tangentially. More reading from the casual observer will be required.
In this, I — and presumably the players — hope it happens. In the meantime, keep those messages in mind while watching the restarted NBA: Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Speak Up, Education Reform, Equality, Justice, Respect Us, See Us, and, yes, Respectez Biso.