By Nick Muhl
In a show of support for Eric Garner and his family, NBA stars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and several other players wore black “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during the Cleveland Cavaliers game versus the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night.
The players wore the shirts during their pre-game warm ups, copying the move by Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Rose was the first to wear the shirt during his pre-game warm up before the Bulls game on Saturday.
While LeBron had made many statements throughout the prior week, regarding his displeasure with several highlighted law enforcement related deaths including Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, the decision to wear the shirts came as a surprise to many.
James was interviewed following the game and attributed the symbolic act to “the power of social media.”
James was quoted Sunday requesting a shirt like Rose, through the social media app Twitter, Brooklyn Nets guard Jarrett Jack was able to supply and coordinate wearing the shirts in a sign of peaceful protest.
When the players for both teams came out for pre-game warm ups, the social media world erupted. While the twitter world was scattered with both positive and negative reactions, the #ICantBreathe trend rose back to the top trend on Twitter following the pre-game warm ups, and still remains in the top 5.
Just as LeBron attributed the success of the silent protest to social media, James, Rose, and the other NBA players knew their act of protest would draw attention to the major racial issues and tensions going on recently in the United States – especially on social media.
The NBA is not the only professional sports league to be the topic of headlines regarding players act of protests in the past several weeks. Most notably the NFL’s St. Louis Rams had several players including wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, who demonstrated the “hands up, don’t shoot” sign of protest during pre-game introductions for the team last Sunday.The NFL did not fine any of the Rams players.
According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the NBA will not fine any of the players for wearing the t-shirts at this time. However, Amick will not provide the name of his source.
LeBron had this to say about the protest following the game,
“As a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another no matter what race you are. But it’s more of a shoutout to the family more than anything because they’re the ones who should be getting the energy and effort.”
Coverage of the many protests have highlighted the news now for several weeks, and can be expected to for at least several more weeks. It remains to be seen if the NBA players act of protest will continue and how much media attention, as well as social media reaction, it will receive.