As the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays tonight, LeBron James and several other players on both sides made a powerful political statement.
The phrase "I Can't Breathe" has become become synonymous with the protest against the non-indictment of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who was caught on video using a chokehold on Staten Island resident Eric Garner.
After two back-to-back non-indictment verdicts for cops involved in the deaths of unarmed black men, nationwide protests have erupted, and a number of athletes have joined in. LeBron's teammate Kyrie Irving wore a similar shirt with the same phrase. Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal reports that former Cavs player Jarrett Jack—who now plays for the Nets—provided the shirts for Lebron and Kyrie. Several Nets players also wore shirts with the sentiment emblazoned.
"We’re in the city where a tragedy happened," Irving told the Akron Beacon Journal. "It’s really important to us that we stand up for a cause, especially this one. It hits kind of close to home and it means a lot to me. What happened is a tragedy and I feel terrible about it."
By publicly protesting the ruling, LeBron and Irving join Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who wore a shirt during Saturday's game against the Golden State Warriors, and several members of the St. Louis Rams who used the "hands up don't shoot" gesture to show solidarity with protestors in Ferguson. Given the similarity and proximity of the two cases and their non-indictment verdicts, there has been plenty of crossover between protestors in both situations.
This isn't the first time LeBron has taken a public political stance on the court. Back in 2012 he led his former Miami Heat teammates in a protest against the jury's not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin. The team posed with their hoods up and James included the hashtag #WeAreTrayvonMartin:
And about two weeks ago, James posted another photo on Instagram in reference to the shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson. The drawing depicted Brown and Martin walking arm in arm:
"As a society how do we do better and stop things like this happening time after time!!" he captioned the image. "I'm so sorry to these families. Violence is not the answer people. Retaliation isn't the solution as well. #PrayersUpToTheFamilies #WeHaveToDoBetter."