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Nine Wizards players will wear social justice messages on their jerseys from “Black Lives Matter” to “Say Her Name,” including all of their returning Europeans

Also, Johnathan Williams is making sure Breonna Taylor won’t be forgotten.

Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards
Issac Bonga will wear an alternative message on the back of his jersey during the season restart.
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards announced on Wednesday that nine of their players will wear one of 29 NBA and NBPA approved social justice messages in place of their last names. They 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, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, Education Reform, and Mentor.

Here are the players who decided to wear a social justice message, along with the specific message they will wear:

  • Issac Bonga: Freedom
  • Troy Brown: Black Lives Matter
  • Ian Mahinmi: Vote
  • Shabazz Napier: Equality
  • Anzejs Pasecniks: Equality
  • Jerome Robinson: Black Lives Matter
  • Admiral Schofield: Enough
  • Moritz Wagner: Vote
  • Johnathan Williams: Say Her Name

Here are some interesting facts on the players who decided to wear a message.

All of Washington’s returning players from the European Union wore a message

Four of the Wizards’ five EU citizens are back. All of them are wearing a social justice message, regardless of race.
Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images

I found this very interesting, and it’s not because the EU has been home to some of the United States’ closest political allies and friends, at least until very recently with the current American presidential administration. In fact, France (where Mahinmi is from) and the Netherlands are the first two EU member-states to recognize American independence. Also, Wagner and Pasecniks are White Europeans.

Racism isn’t anything new in Europe, just like it isn’t in the United States. Black people in France and Belgium, among others generally aren’t the descendants of slaves like many Black people in the United States. Belgium in particular is still grappling with its colonial past with the Congo. But Black people in other countries like France also face their own brand of racism.

Racism in Europe is also not limited to Black people by the way. Overall, there are more Europeans of Middle Eastern descent than in the United States, particularly in western nations which have a large proportion of people of North African (ex: Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians) or Turkish descent. Many of them face prejudice or racial profiling in western European countries like France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Racism isn’t the same in Europe like it is in the USA due to different immigration patterns. But again, it’s there.

Williams is wearing a message to make sure Black women are heard as well

Denver Nuggets v Washington Wizards
Johnathan Williams is laying attention to Breonna Taylor’s death with his choice of a social justice message.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Many of the recent Black Lives Matter protests were sparked by George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis last spring. However, Breonna Taylor, a medical professional, was shot and killed at her home in Louisville, Ky. on Mar. 13 when police were executing a no-knock warrant.

The WNBA is going to spend their current season in nearby Bradenton, Fla, to pay specific attention to Taylor’s case. But at any rate, big props to Williams for making sure that Taylor isn’t overlooked during the NBA season restart.

Many of the recent protests on racial inequality have centered around the murders of Black men in the hands of law enforcement. However, women are also victims, and Williams is doing his part to make sure they aren’t left out in this. I’ll finish this post with his statement on why he chose “Say Her Name”:

The reason behind [my decision] was because of the Breonna Taylor incident where she lost her life while she was sleeping in bed. I just want to say her name because I think that’s really important. We need to continue to praise our women in and show them love. That’s what I believe.