Nine Wizards to wear social justice messages on jerseys when play resumes

On Wednesday, nine Wizards players unveiled the messages they chose to display on the backs of their jerseys when play resumes later this month. The jersey messages are part of the league’s wide-ranging efforts to address and raise awareness for social justice issues across the country.

“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,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said last month. “A shared goal of our season restart will be to use our platform in Orlando to bring attention to these important issues of social justice.”

The NBA and the NBPA agreed on a list of 29 approved messages that players would be permitted to wear in place of their names: 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.

Isaac Bonga, Troy Brown Jr., Ian Mahinmi, Shabazz Napier, Anzejs Pasecniks, Jerome Robinson, Admiral Schofield, Mortiz Wagner and Johnathan Williams all chose to replace their name with a message in Orlando. Here, we take a look each of the players’ choices, their reasoning and what Black Lives Matter means to them – in their own words.

Isaac Bonga – FREEDOM

“I chose ‘FREEDOM’ on the back of my jersey because I think it is time for us to be free,” Bonga said. “We should leave the past in the past and learn from our mistakes, because I think if you do that, you’re going to grow as a collective, but also grow as human beings. I think if you do that, we should start teaching the next generation, teaching our kids about being free and how to love each other. I think that’s why I chose ‘FREEDOM.’

“I think the definition of Black Lives Matter is that we should stop sacrificing all these African-American lives. I think we should start to learn where all the hatred, all the emotions toward those people came from and learn how to understand each other and have all those maybe uncomfortable conversations about those emotions toward each other. At the end of the day, we all are human beings. We all are the same.”

Troy Brown Jr. – BLACK LIVES MATTER

“I put ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ on the back of my jersey just to reiterate the social injustices that have been going on in our country and just to remind people that just because we’re in the bubble doesn’t mean we forgot about everything that’s going on,” Brown Jr. said.

Addressing the media, Brown Jr. expanded on what it means to be able to make such a statement: “To have an opportunity to put something that I truly, firmly believe is something that I believe needs to be addressed on the back of my jersey, I took that opportunity and am definitely going to make the most of it.”

“Black Lives Matter means to me equality across the board for everybody and fairness for everyone in America.”

Ian Mahinmi – VOTE

“I picked ‘VOTE’ to be the message on the back of my jersey,” Mahinmi said. “Initially, I wanted to put ‘vote locally,’ because I am a believer in voting locally. I almost think that it has more of an impact on your life than the presidential elections. That was my message. I believe that in the system that we live in, it is the most accurate way to demand change, so I wanted to put that message and I appreciate the opportunity.”

Mahinmi’s choice is just the next step in his efforts to raise awareness for localized voting. Mahinmi has spent the last week raising awareness on his social media channels for this week’s elections in Texas. The big man also spoke on the issue last month at a march in Wylie, Texas and on a recent episode of the Wizards Podcast Network’s Full Court Press.

“Black lives matter to me,” Mahinmi said. “First of all, I want to say a conversation within yourself. Make sure that you love yourself, you value yourself, you uplift your community, that you love your brothers and sisters, that you care about them. I want to address the media that sometimes changes the narrative and has us looking like we’re begging for the attention of a small percentage of the population that will never recognize us. That is not the case. To me, Black Lives Matter is the essence of self-love, self-care, self-determination and the uplifting of your community.”

Shabazz Napier – EQUALITY

“In this world, at the moment right now, we’re fighting amongst each other,” Napier said. “Whether it’s black or white or women or men. I think for us to understand that everybody should be held at an equal standard, not matter the race, no matter the gender. I think that speaks loudly to me. I was raised by my mother only, so I understand the trials and tribulations that women go through on a daily basis to a certain extent – obviously I’m not a female. I think that is very important, as much as the black and white…same for (the LGBTQ) community and their equal rights. That means a lot. I think if you can handle that down, sooner or later, things will come to fruition where we live in a positive world.”

Anzejs Pasecniks – EQUALITY

“I chose to have ‘EQUALITY’ on my back just as a simple reminder to treat every single person the same way,” Pasecniks said. “It doesn’t matter what color you are, what language you speak or where you’re from.”

Jerome Robinson – BLACK LIVES MATTER

“I put ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ on the back of my jersey because I think that is the biggest symbol of representation of what we have going on right now,” Robinson said. “Through the whole quarantine, with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, etc. and the amount of people that were murdered for no reason at all or for terrible reasoning. I think it’s the biggest symbol on one of the biggest platforms, so ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ will be on the back of my jersey.”

Admiral Schofield – ENOUGH

“I chose ‘ENOUGH’ on the back of my jersey because it’s time for people to be more aware,” Schofield said. “It’s time for people to stop making excuses. It’s time for people to stop being uncomfortable with uncomfortable situations. Enough is enough. I think it’s time for us to sit at the table and create change. Change is only going to be created by us who are willing to do so, who are willing to sit and have the hard conversations. Black lives matter to me because I am a black man in America. I am a British American. One of the things that I’ve experienced in this country is pure racism, systematic racism – and it has to stop. So enough is enough.”

“I’m appreciative of the fact that we get a chance to voice and also use this platform on this stage to be able to voice our opinions and our views on what’s going on,” Schofield said. “I chose ‘ENOUGH.’ It’s there in the word. I think it’s enough of the lies, enough of the corruption, enough of the racism, enough of the systematic oppression. It’s time to come to the table and talk and have the hard conversations…I just think ‘ENOUGH’ was a great option for me.”

During media availability earlier this week, Schofield expanded on what the last couple months have been like for him and how it’s helped him understand what we as a society need to do next.

“I think the biggest thing was the experience of marching and being in D.C.,” Schofield said. “This is my first time in D.C. Marching in D.C. and being able to be with my teammates and all the support from the fans and the community that we had – it was very special. But I think the most important thing now is making the right moves, not just making so many moves – as far as educating and as far as spreading the word about social issues and social justice. I think the biggest thing right now is to educate. Education is the key to creating change. The lack of education, the lack of knowing, the lack of being aware of what’s going on is what causes the conflict, I think. Education reform and educating a lot of our people, not just Americans, white, no matter the color. Black people need to know, too, their history. I think education reform needs to be made. Everyone needs to be more accepting to being more aware (of) the right information. It’s not a perfect world, but the little things that we’ve done – my teammates, Brad (Beal), John (Wall) – the little things that we’ve done are great and heading toward the direction of change.”

Moritz Wagner – VOTE

“I chose ‘VOTE’ to put on the back of my jersey because I think it is very important that everybody expresses their opinion,” Wagner said. “Even if you don’t go vote, you’re basically submitting a vote. I feel like, coming from Europe, not a lot of people participate in politics over here in the United States. I feel like now, more than ever, the urgency is a high as it’s ever been. I encourage everybody to go vote. I would vote if I could here in the states.”

“Talking about Black Lives Matter, it’s a movement that means a lot to me,” Wagner continued. “It means responsibility to me as a white man, well aware that I am in a privileged situation in the U.S. and knowing how to deal with that and being willing to educate yourself and encourage others to educate (themselves) and being aware of the fact that this is a problem that white people (have to be accountable for) and have to act upon. That’s what that means to me. Hopefully something changes.”

Johnathan Williams – SAY HER NAME

“I chose ‘SAY HER NAME,” Williams said. “The reason behind it was because of the Breonna Taylor incident where she lost her life while she was sleeping in bed. I just want to say her name because I think that’s really important. We need to continue to praise our women in and show them love. That’s what I believe.”

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