For their first NBA game back in four months, the Grizzlies came ready to make a unified statement during a time of social reckoning in America. That first step came Friday before their first game in Florida.
The Grizzlies, the Portland Trail Blazers, their coaches and the referees knelt on the court during the national anthem and locked arms as they wore shirts with “Black Lives Matter” on the front. Several players had their heads bowed as well.
It followed similar protests during the NBA’s restart on Thursday when the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans knelt during the anthem as did the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.
“We came down to Orlando for a bigger purpose than just playing this game because we know that there’s a lot of stuff going around in our country. This is important,” Jaren Jackson Jr. said.
Jackson pointed to his T-shirt mentioning Breonna Taylor to emphasize the message. The Grizzlies all wore shirts with Taylor’s name along with #SayHerName as they arrived at the arena
Taylor was a 26-year-old emergency room technician in Louisville who was shot and killed after police officers executed a no-knock warrant at her apartment.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said the team met in the days leading up to the game and decided to honor Taylor with their shirts. In addition, he said the team wanted to send message demanding accountability from the Louisville Police Department, action from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and justice for Taylor’s family.
Fourteen of the Grizzlies will also wear league-approved slogans on the back of their jerseys highlighting their support for various social justice causes.
“This is a moment in time that’s greater than basketball. Just as a country, as humans, we need to engage in that dialogue,” said Jenkins, who added that the shirts are the first of several messages the team will share inside the NBA bubble.
Jackson said that kneeling during the anthem went hand-in-hand with not only supporting Taylor’s family but affirming the team’s support behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I hope people say her name, I hope people don’t forget her name because yes, this is very important,” Jackson said. “Say her name and don’t forget it. It’s 100 percent about her.”
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