In 2005, the NBA implemented a strict dress code to combat image problems caused by young black players wearing hip hop attire popularized by street dealers and rap stars. The dress code called for NBA players to wear "business casual" attire before and after NBA games -- even if a player was sitting on the bench.
But before last night's Cavaliers vs Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center, Cleveland Cavaliers stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, as well as members of the Brooklyn Nets, donned black t-shirts bearing the words "I can't breathe," to support the family of Eric Garner who was suffocated by a NYPD police officer.
On Sunday, James told a reporter he was looking for a t-shirt similar to the one worn by Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose.
According to ESPN, Nets guard Jarrett Jack heard James' request and supplied the shirts to both teams.
"The power of social media," James said.
"I try to kinda distance myself from [social issues]," but this is one where I kinda really paid attention and saw what was going on," said Nets point guard Deron Williams. "I mean, you can see the [Garner] video and you know what happened. It's not one of those things where people are saying this and the cops are saying that. It's there for you to see. You just feel bad that a man lost his life because of that."
"It's not a Cavs thing," James told reports before the game. "It's a worldly thing."
James added: "As a society we have to do better."
"It's just for us to make a [statement] to understand what we're going through as a society," James said. "I've been quoted over and over about what's going on as far as it's more of a notion to the family, more than anything. Obviously, as a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another. It doesn't matter what race you are. It's more of a shout out to the family more than anything, because they're the ones that should be getting all the energy and effort."
Part owner of the Brooklyn Nets, rapper Jay Z, attended the game with his wife Beyonce. Twitter.com users noted Jay Z was the only one not wearing an "I can't breathe" t-shirt before the game.
The t-shirts are not for sale to the general public.
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