Miami Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler is hoping to keep the nameplate on the back of his jersey blank to underscore that if he weren't an NBA player, he would be "no different than anybody else of color."
As the league inches closer to a restart, many players have decided to wear one of a list of NBA-approved social justice messages during play later this month at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. Butler said he hopes the NBA will allow him to wear no message at all.
"I have decided not to," Butler said during a Tuesday video call with reporters. "With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn't go on there as well. Just because I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose, but for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it's going back to, like, who I was. And if I wasn't who I was today, I'm no different than anybody else of color and want that to be my message in the sense that just because I'm an NBA player, everybody has the same right, no matter what, and that's how I feel about my people of color."
The Heat on Tuesday released on Twitter a list of the social justice messages their players will wear. The space next to Butler's name was left blank.
However, Butler, 30, told reporters earlier Tuesday that the league hasn't signed off on his request.
"Not just yet," he said. "Not just yet. I'm hoping I get that opportunity, though. I really am."
He said that he thought about opting out of the bubble entirely but decided to play and is confident that the Heat can both win and discuss the social justice issues going on in the world while they are together.
Butler participated in an online town hall discussion in observance of Juneteenth in which he was open about the racism he has experienced. Butler, who was one of several Heat players to participate in the conversation, believes the discussion "opened everybody's eyes" and continued the conversation about racism in the country.
"I think it's important to know that we're regular human beings like everybody else," Butler said. "And the same stuff that everybody's going through right now in the world, we've dealt with before. It may not have been yesterday, but maybe it was 10 years ago, who knows? And for everybody to see how human we really are, and we hurt just like everybody else, and we have to deal with this just like everybody else -- it's real. And I felt like that town hall for us, it opened everybody's eyes -- not just ours as a team but everybody that was watching."
As far as basketball goes, Butler is confident that the Heat will make the most of their surroundings in the bubble. Butler noted that he and his agent, Bernie Lee, helped get Heat players portable hoops so that they could practice at their homes after the NBA shut down its facilities.
"It's going to be tough," Butler said of the mental edge needed to win a championship under these circumstances. "I'm not going to lie to you, but I think the best thing about it is everybody has to have that same mental edge. Everybody's at the same mental disadvantage, and I think we handle this well. People say that we have a group full of underdogs. Say what you will, but we got a group full of really good pros that love to hoop, love to compete, and we're going to go out there and give it our all.
"Home, away or neutral here at Disney, I think you can count on the Miami Heat bringing it."