Mike Conley to wear ‘I Am A Man’ on back of Utah Jazz jersey in NBA’s restart
Jul 13, 2020, 10:48pm CDT
SALT LAKE CITY — Though Mike Conley is a member of the Utah Jazz, his experiences in Memphis with the Grizzlies still shape his decisions.
When the NBA restarts on July 30, as a part of the NBA’s initiative to raise awareness about racial inequality and injustice, the league is allowing players to replace their last names on the back of their jerseys with phrases or words that relate to the fight for equality.
Conley’s Jazz jersey will read “I Am A Man,” the phrase that Memphis sanitation workers used in the 1968 strike in which African American workers protested to have a recognized union, earn higher wages, and all around be treated as their white counterparts were.
The 1968 strike led to Martin Luther King Jr. arriving in Memphis and giving his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, the day before he was assassinated.
“It was something that I consulted with my family on and something that we thought was powerful,” Conley said of his decision to wear the phrase on his jersey. “Especially being that it all came from Memphis when the sanitation workers went on strike.”
For 12 years Conley played with the Grizzlies and called Memphis home.
He has continued to contribute to the Memphis community in multiple ways over the years including a monetary donation in May to CodeCrew Memphis, a group that mentors underrepresented youth in Memphis in new technologies and computer science programming.
“I actually got to visit the Civil Rights museum a few times down there,” Conley said of his time in Memphis. “It meant a lot to me to be able to put that on the back of my jersey.”
The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the former Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“It was something that I consulted with my family on and something that we thought was powerful. Especially being that it all came from Memphis when the sanitation workers went on strike.” — Jazz guard Mike Conley
NBA teams often visit the museum throughout the regular season during their trips to Memphis and the Grizzlies partner with the museum on multiple events throughout the year.
According to a report from ESPN’s Marc Spears, the list of phrases that were agreed upon by the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA are: Black Lives Matter; Say Their Names; Vote; I Can’t Breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the People; Justice Now; Say Her Name; Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can); Liberation; See Us; Hear Us; Respect Us; Love Us; Listen; Listen to Us; Stand Up; Ally; Anti-Racist; I Am A Man; Speak Up; How Many More; Group Economics; Education Reform; and Mentor.
In addition to Conley, many Jazz players have said that they too will wear one of the approved messages on their jersey, including Rudy Gobert who will wear “Equality,” and Jordan Clarkson and Tony Bradley who will wear “Peace.”
The messages will be displayed in place of the player’s last names through the first four days of the NBA restart. The player can choose to continue to wear the message on their jersey after the first four days but at that point their last name will appear below their jersey number.
Check out the DeseretNews article here