NEW YORK, December 9- Cleveland star LeBron James was among the NBA players to follow the lead of Chicago’s Derrick Rose on Monday in backing protests over the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James donned a T-shirt reading “I Cant’ Breathe” for pre-game warm-ups prior to the Cavaliers’ 110-88 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Team-mate Kyrie Irving wore a similar shirt, as did Nets players Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams.
Rose created a small stir when he wore a black T-shirt reading “I can’t breathe” prior to the Bulls’ NBA game on Saturday.
On Monday in Chicago, he said the sartorial statement was in memory not only of Eric Garner, who uttered the words as he was held in a chokehold by a New York police officer and later died, but also to mark the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by police in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson earlier this year.
“I think both stories are touching stories and I just wanted to show my support by wearing the shirt,” Rose said.
In both cases, grand juries declined to bring charges against the officers involved, sparking national protests centered on race.
“Usually I stay out of politics and police brutality,” Rose said. “I’m not saying all cops are bad or anything. I’m just saying what happened them days was uncalled for, and I think it hurt a lot of people. It hurt the nation.
“Now that I’m a dad, it changed my outlook on life, period,” added the 26-year-old, whose son was born in 2012. “I don’t want my son growing up being scared of police or even have the thought in his mind that something like that could happen.”
At Monday’s game in Brooklyn — receiving special scrutiny thanks to the attendance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — James also wore the shirt as he was introduced in the starting lineup.
“As a society, we have to do better, we have to be better for one another, doesn’t matter what race you are,” James said before the game of the statement he hoped to make.
“But it’s more of a shout-out to the family more than anything because they are the ones that should be getting more of the energy and effort more than anybody.”
NBA players aren’t the only US athletes to signal their support of the protests.
Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush wore a top with “I can’t breathe” written on it ahead of an NFL game on Sunday, as did Cleveland Browns ace Johnson Bademosi.
Davin Joseph, a St Louis Rams guard, wrote the same words on his cleats and tweeted it, along with the caption: “RIP Eric Garner.”