By Maha Fier,
The title of this piece states my question. It may be an odd one, but it’s honestly a valid one.
Why does my boyfriend only wear NBA jerseys?
I’m no huge follower of basketball and it’s never been the ‘thing’ for Kiwis or Australians. Somehow though, American basketball has made its way into the hearts of many men and women within our respective countries. Maybe it’s the fast pace of it, the love for the players, the love for the teams; I don’t know, I’m no expert.
I went to a concert with my boyfriend the other night and he was wearing one of his many NBA jerseys (Raptors #1 ??). At least a good four times throughout that night, random guys would tap him on his shoulder in the mosh pit and tell him how great his fit looked. A good couple of them were even wearing their own NBA jerseys. It was this symbol of ally ship within the mosh pit and I was pretty taken aback by how special this piece of clothing evidently was.
From then on, it became apparent to me that the NBA Jersey has taken young men’s fashion by storm. I see them everywhere now too. The night clubs, university campus, the gym. There’s no escaping them.
I was willing to dismiss it as some fanboy basketball fashion trend, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to realise just how symbolic the NBA jersey was. I may not know much about the NBA as I have stated, but I do know about the impactful activism that has taken place within the association.
Many of us are probably familiar with the symbolic ‘Taking the knee’ action, which some athletes do before a sports game to highlight racial inequalities and police brutality against BIPOC. This action has been routinely taken upon by some players of the NBA.
But, there’s also another form of activism that NBA players have chosen to adopt to put a spotlight on these issues.
That is, through the usage of their NBA Jersey.
In 2020, the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) approved 29 different messages as well as custom messaging which NBA athletes could print on their jerseys as a way to keep attention on the racial injustices that were occurring towards the black community.
‘The Undefeated’ reported that “of 350 players listed on rosters for the NBA’s restart, 300 players will wear social justice messages on the back of their jerseys.”
Messages included, “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” and many more.
This approval of messaging provided NBA players the capacity to stand alongside the Black Lives Matter Movement even further and urge their hugely massive fan base to exercise their democratic rights in the 2020 election. The fact that athletes for an American sport were able to use their uniforms on the basis of what we know as on ‘political grounds’ is not only surprising, but amazingly transformative for what this means in terms of activism within sports.
What fascinates me about the NBA jersey is that through this messaging, the jersey in itself has now become a symbol against police brutality and racial inequalities. And, it is this prime example of how clothing can be used to push major change, where in this case, reaching millions of people to vote in favour of the rights for black communities.
This is not to say that every person who you find wearing an NBA jersey is standing against racial inequalities and for social justice. You can certainly hope so. But, if you asked anyone, the answer would probably be ‘I just love the team’.
That is a valid answer in itself, but I’d like to think my boyfriend (as well as many other guys) own so many NBA jerseys for these reasons stated above. That he would wear them not only for the love of the game, but for the support of the players and the values the NBA obtains.
Now, this piece does not cover the unethical practices of the brand ‘Nike,’ whom produce these NBA Jerseys (there’s always a silver lining) – however, today, I’m going to appreciate the NBA Jersey and the justice it can bring to the BIPOC community.