Norman Powell slams NBA for 'cookie-cutter' jersey message options

Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell called out the NBA for being halfway in on allowing players to speak on matters of social justice.

The NBA initially announced that players would be allowed to replace the name on their jersey to show support and raise awareness, but later came out with a strict list of 29 approved messages. Powell felt the list was restricting and that it undercut what some players had hoped to do with the opportunity.

“I wish there wasn’t even a list. It’s a topic where it’s freedom of speech, and you’re taking your name off the back of your jersey to put something that matters to you, that speaks volumes to how you view things and your approach to life. You shouldn’t be boxed in to say you can only say this much, or this is okay for you to say. You shouldn’t be boxed in on a topic like this,” Powell said in a conference call.

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 22:  Norman Powell #24 of the Toronto Raptors warms up prior to their NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena on January 22, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Powell wasn't happy the NBA restricted players from expressing themselves. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

In Powell’s estimation, the NBA’s list was generic and limiting. Among the phrases approved by the league were: “group economics,” “mentor,” “I am a man,” “si se peude,” and “ally.” And while there were important messages that were covered, Powell isn’t alone in feeling shorted by the opportunity. LeBron James, who was a vice-president of the NBA Players’ Association, said this week the list didn’t “resonate” with him which is why he won’t wear any of the messages.

“I was really upset about the whole change where it was really limited. The list was very cookie-cutter. It doesn’t really touch the topics of what we’re trying to achieve here. With that being said, I chose Black Lives Matter — it was the most radical that spoke to where I stand,” Powell said.

Despite the restrictions, Powell remains committed to creating social change. He is donating all proceeds on his “Understand the Grind” clothing line towards charity, and will also be personally matching that donation. Powell is also speaking with representatives in his community and has reached out to the NBPA to further his efforts.

“We got a lot of guys in this league that have been using their voice during this time, and we were really excited about being able to change our last names and to put a quote there that represents where we stand and what we want to say, and how we feel about this,” he added.

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