The NBA and the NBPA will let players change the names on their jerseys into a social justice statement when the league restarts in Orlando, Florida on July 30.
The move is a result of an agreement between the league and the players in conjunction with Nike, the athletic wear sponsor of the NBA.
According to CBS Sports, NBA players are very vocal about spreading national consciousness against social injustice, particularly injustice against African Americans. Recent examples are the deaths of Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
In the past weeks, Kyrie Irving led a campaign to boycott the resumption of the 2019-2020 season in Disney World, Florida, as a statement against social injustice.
Some players are also concerned that the season restart is just a distraction to derail the social injustice campaign. According to Bleacher Report, NBA superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, and Stephen Curry participated in Black Lives Matter rallies to lend their support.
However, there are also players who disagree with a boycott. One of the most vocal activists is NBA superstar LeBron James, who says that players can use the NBA's national popularity and coverage to deliver a message. During the Garner incident, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the late Kobe Bryant wore shirts that read "I Can't Breathe" -Garner's final words.
There is a similar petition in the WNBA to put police brutality victims' names on their jerseys.
The league has been historically supportive of its players when they speak out against social injustice. Nike is also supportive of such campaigns and is willing to support the move and make the necessary customisation at players' requests. In recent years, the traditional look of NBA jerseys, including city names and team logos, were changed to express free speech, but the player surnames at the back were rarely changed.
Some insiders claim that such a move by the NBA is only a strategy to prevent players from opting out of the Orlando games. The hiatus has cost the league and NBA teams millions of dollars and they willing to do anything to push forward with the plan to recover broadcasting revenue.