Jimmy Butler took a unique approach to the issues many players had with the NBA's list of social justice messages approved for use on the back of jerseys at Disney. Rather than deciding against wearing one, as LeBron James and Anthony Davis did, he pushed for a different solution altogether. Butler wanted to leave the back of his uniform blank.
Unfortunately, the request is expected to be denied by the NBA, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. Wearing a name on the back of a jersey is part of the league's uniform player agreement. On Tuesday, Butler explained that his interest in having no name on his jersey was based on the lack of humanity that many African Americans who are not NBA superstars are treated with by law enforcement.
"I have decided not to. With that being said I hope that my last name doesn't go on there as well, just because I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose, but for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it's going back to like who I was, and if I wasn't who I was today, I'm no different than anybody else of color, and I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I'm an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That's how I feel about my people of color."
The NBA's official list of approved social justice messages is as follows: 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.
Had Butler's request been honored, it would have been an example of actions speaking louder than words. The feeling of dehumanization that many African Americans feel at the hands of police has been a central tenet of the Black Lives Matter movement that has gripped the nation in recent months. Playing with no name on his jersey would have positioned Butler with the same anonymity as those who deal with law enforcement every day. His celebrity has granted him the privilege of avoiding such interactions now, but Butler wanted to speak out for those who aren't so fortunate.
Sadly, as open-minded as the NBA is on many fronts, it appears to be holding firm on the uniform requirements it set for the restarted season at Disney. Butler is now likely to wear his own name, as he previously claimed that he had decided not to wear one of the league's approved messages.