LeBron James will not be replacing his name on the back of his Lakers jersey with a social justice message when the NBA resumes, saying that he wasn’t consulted on the pre-approved phrases and didn’t feel like they “resonated” with his mission. His teammate, JaVale McGee, feels differently.
In his first remarks to the media since the season started ramping back up again, McGee confirmed on a Zoom call that he will wear the message “Respect Us” where the his jersey used to say his last name, and he explained why that message was important to him.
“Respect is a key factor in social injustices. We definitely need to get equality, and we definitely need to get the same respect everybody else does,” McGee said.
McGee also reiterated that he feels “safe” resuming the season, and isn’t worried about his asthma as a risk factor. He trusts the safety measures the NBA is putting in place, and said that fighting for the “respect” that he’ll have written on his jersey is another big part of why he never considered sitting out of the NBA restart.
“I feel like we have way more of a voice playing basketball,” McGee said, explaining that all players know that their supporters are primarily basketball fans, using an example of how he will almost universally get more Instagram likes on a photo of him playing with his teammates than he will on any photo he posts of himself with his family.
“So I feel like this is the biggest platform where we can speak about social injustices and everything that we want to speak about. During the season I feel like that’s the best time to talk about it, rather than the offseason,” McGee said.
McGee has plenty of experience using said platform, as he’s been leveraging it for years, most notably and frequently for the benefit of his charity “JUGLIFE,” which fights against the worldwide water crisis and goes on annual trips to build wells in Uganda. McGee, a native of Flint, Michigan, has also tried to raise awareness of the still-ongoing water issues there. He’s as aware as anyone of how playing can help spotlight the causes he champions.
“It’s just a blessing to be able to have this platform in the NBA,” McGee continued. “I’m really excited about it.”