Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell has become the latest NBA player to express frustration with the list of approved social justice messages the league has allowed players to wear on their jerseys in lieu of their surnames. During a Thursday conference call with reporters, Powell said he was “really upset,” implying that the messages were “cookie cutter” in nature.
Per a Twitter thread from The Athletic‘s Blake Murphy, Powell — who was an important part of his team’s championship season in 2019 and is in the midst of a career year in Toronto — revealed that the back of his jersey would read “Black Lives Matter,” but also said that he would have put “Am I Next?” on the nameplate had he been given free rein to do so.
Video of the call in its entirety was also shared by the Raptors on their official web site.
Powell, a history major at UCLA before his professional basketball career began, also opined that the NBA should have eschewed the list — which included terms jointly approved by the league and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) — in favor of allowing players to exercise their right of free speech.
“I was really disappointed with the options that were given to us. First and foremost, I feel like with a topic like this — social justice — that we’re fighting for, the fact that we were boxed into a list of 28, 29 sayings was really unfortunate,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in this league that have a voice, have been using their voice through this time and were really excited about being able to change our last names and put a quote there that represents where we stand and what we want to say and how we feel about this.”
Additionally, Powell revealed that he would be donating all proceeds from his UTG clothing line to Black causes, and will personally match the funds that are raised.
Powell and the Raptors currently sit in second place in the Eastern Conference standings at 46-18 with two weeks remaining before the NBA resumes play within its Orlando, Florida, bubble environment on July 30.
As shared previously by The Inquisitr, Los Angeles Lakers star and multi-time MVP LeBron James headlines a small group of players who elected to forgo putting one of the approved messages on their jersey, electing instead to leave their last names there. Like Powell, James expressed frustration about not being included in the decision-making process regarding what would be allowed on the backs of players’ jerseys.