Social Justice in the Spotlight


Black Lives Matter protest in Baltimore during the nationwide protests.

Elliot Ellis

In the theme of social justice, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has allowed its players to put social messages on the backs of their jerseys where their names would normally be. Some of these messages include, “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” “Justice,” and  “Equality,” amongst others. 


Los Angeles Lakers small forward, Lebron James, stated, “I wanted athletes to feel like they had power, they had the platform to speak about whatever they wanted to speak about.”


While anti-social justice commentary has seemed to differ from the path professional sports is on, it’s important to keep in mind that a significant portion of society does not agree with the movement. While some have embraced the social justice movement amongst professional athletes, many see million-dollar athletes and wonder what’s at stake for them. NBA hall of famer Charles Barkley stated, “The last thing they want to do is turn on the television and hear arguments all the time. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the public reacts,” as well as, “That’s a lot of money for these players… and they can put it back in their community. So I think that’s the main reason to play.” On the contrary, according to a survey conducted by ESPN, “More than seven of 10 sports fans support teams and athletes speaking out on issues of social justice and racial equality.” Juniors Reece Tiras and Dylan Canfield shared their opinions on the rise of the movement. 

 “I think they should be allowed to speak because everyone has the right to state their opinions and beliefs. It shouldn’t matter who you are,” said Tiras. Canfield felt similarly. 

 “The players should be able to voice their opinions because people should have the free speech to say their opinions on things,” said Canfield. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver thought the same as Tiras and Canfield. 

In an interview on ESPN, one of the first things Silver mentioned was the league supported the players in whatever they decided to do. He later mentioned that “the league and the players are uniquely positioned to have a direct impact on combating systemic racism in our country, and we are committed to collective action to build a more equal and just society.”