Let LeBron James Express His Activism In His Own Way

Independent thinking and a unified mindstate is what got the NBA to a point where Black players are more empowered than ever and their fight against social injustice, police brutality and systemic racism is finally being heard.

The long-winded call for racial equality is finally moving in their favor, so don’t criticize LeBron for not wanting to wear any of the NBA-approved slogans on his jersey as part of the league’s recognition of the nationwide crusade for social justice; a movement sparked by the death of George Floyd.

The jersey situation is unprecedented and a great opportunity for players to express their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Several NBA players had a problem with being excluded from the process of choosing slogans that players could wear on the back of their jerseys inside the bubble. NBA players are allowed to choose from a lengthy list of possible messages for their jerseys during the league’s restart

Bron, usually the first player to sign up for a chance to make a social activist statement,  chose to keep his last name. He says his thoughts can’t be expressed in one phrase on the back of a jersey. 

“It was no disrespect to the list that was handed down to all the players,” James said Saturday in a conference call from Florida. “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 gone on the back of my jersey,” James said. “I had a couple of things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. … 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.”

The mass protests and the country’s subsequent racial awakening proved that real action brings change. Allowing and encouraging NBA players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys is definitely unprecedented. However, LeBron is not going to attach his social justice platform to any situation that limits his control over his own narrative. By excluding the opinion of the players in choosing possible slogans, the NBA was trying to control the narrative and that is something that Bron is not going to let happen. 

“This is the mission I’ve been on for a long time now,” James said. “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.”

Some folks weren’t too happy about the face of social activism refusing to exercise his right to wear a slogan supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement on his jersey.

Others point to the myriad things he’s already done to advance the culture and provide educational opportunities for youth of color in America. They support his right to express himself in whatever way he chooses.

The critics don’t understand that once Bron and most of the NBA players decided to enter the bubble, rather than boycott the season for advocacy or health reasons, they relinquished a bit of power to gain a larger stage. Every move they make going forward is a chess match. 

To continue instigating change, NBA players must choose their moves very carefully and not allow the message to get hijacked by corporate or potentially oppressive powers. The NBA has been one of the more progressive pro leagues for some time now and in this moment of truth, it has supported the social activism that has swept through the league’s culture and is now driving its core and shaping its future. 

LeBron James undoubtedly has a few things up his sleeve, He’ll probably have a personal message or two on his kicks. But the players have made it clear that the way they choose to exercise their rights to free speech will be on their terms. They may have agreed to take a tremendous risk to their health and play in Florida, where COVID cases have hit record numbers, but how they choose to protest or advocate for social justice will not be packaged and sold by the NBA. 

Anthony Davis will keep his last name as well, refusing to be a part of any social justice initiative that the NBA is dictating, profiting off or excluding the players from.