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Friday, December 19, 2014

About those "We Can't Breathe" shirts in NBA games

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

Bob Kravitz does not agree with NBA players wearing "I can't breathe" shirts, and he has a point. Like it or not, the NBA needs to address this (even if privately and/or informally) because of the precedent being set.

While NBA players are (obviously) playing a game, an NBA game is a workplace. Even though I think the NYPD was completely out of line in the way it dealt with Eric Garner. I would not wear a political shirt to work, unless I was working for a candidate. (And then, I would only wear a shirt supporting that candidate.) A political shirt can be a distraction for both co-workers and customers, and can create needless tension in the workplace.

And yes, I know the NBA is not a traditional workplace.

Kravitz asks what will happen if a player decides to wear a shirt taking a position on an issue like abortion or some other hot button issue. What happens if a player wants to wear a shirt with the text "Jesus Saves" or "Allahu Akbar" during warm-ups? What if an atheist player responds with his own shirt?

At what point does the National Basketball Association draw the line? What messages will and will not be permitted? What are the standards for determining what will and will not be permitted in terms of messages not explicitly approved for employees to wear at work? How will this be negotiated with the players' union?

NBA players (and all professional athletes) live their lives in public, today more than ever before due to direct interaction with fans on social media. The NBA should allow wide latitude for players to make statements on political, social and cultural issues when they are off the floor. But on the court, the NBA should enforce a standard of professionalism and tell players to exercise their free speech rights on their own time.

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