The Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler always wants to do things his way, but the NBA wouldn’t let him this time.
For the NBA restart, the league allowed players to choose from a pre-approved list of social justice messages for the backs of their jerseys (words and phrases like “Equality,” “How Many More” and “Black Lives Matter”). Players also had the option of having nothing at the top, with their number in the middle and their name underneath.
Those were the two options. Butler tried to choose option three: He wanted a jersey with no name and no social justice message — only his number. Unfortunately, option three didn’t actually exist, and the NBA noticed and told him it was a no-go.
Miami's Jimmy Butler wanted to wear a jersey with no social justice message and no name -- completely blank except for his No. 22 -- as the ultimately expression of equality. The league would not allow it— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 1, 2020
NBA spokesman on Jimmy Butler: “Displaying no name or message on the back of a player’s jersey was not an option among the social justice messages agreed upon by the Players Association and the NBA as modifications to the rules regarding uniforms.” (1/2)— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 1, 2020
Butler forced to change
During the warmup for the Heat’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Butler was seen wearing that no-name jersey. But since the NBA wasn’t allowing Butler to wear that jersey during games, the game couldn’t begin until Butler took off his jersey and changed into one that was within the rules.
NBA spokesman (continued) on Miami’s Jimmy Butler being asked to take off a jersey with no name and replace it with a jersey bearing BUTLER: ”Per league rules, the uniform may not be otherwise altered and anyone wearing an altered jersey will not be permitted to enter the game.”— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) August 1, 2020
Butler’s thinking behind the blank jersey is interesting and admirable. But while the NBA is progressive as far as Black Live Matter and social justice, it’s still a sports league. And in sports, you have to follow the rules.
At least Butler got to make his statement before the game. As he explained a few weeks ago, while he supports Black Lives Matter and all the jersey messages, wearing a jersey with no message and no name was going back to who he was.
“If I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color,” Butler said. “And I want that to be my message, in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same right no matter what.”
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