Today, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life. (An investigation found that it was indeed Sterling's voice making the racist statements recorded by then-girlfriend V. Stiviano.) On Sunday, Clippers players had showed up at practice wearing their warm-ups inside-out in order to hide the team logo, turning their gear into a protest against Sterling. His swift punishment makes the team's gesture one of the most effective instances of jersey-as-political-statement to date--but the Clippers are hardly the first athletes to use this tactic.
Almost as long as sports have been televised, athletes and fans have been modifying their uniforms to seize the broadcast. And from the Black Power socks and gloves famously worn on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympics, to the 1991 Fiesta Bowl game (where players on both teams wore armbands and patches to protest an Arizona vote against a honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.), to Cleveland Indians fans removing the racist Chief Wahoo mascot from their gear, there’s often a civil rights element to these statements.
In 2010, Arizona Suns owner Rob Sarver and players teamed up to swap their regular jerseys for ones that said "Los Suns" on Cinco de Mayo--a gesture of solidarity with the Hispanic population targeted by the state’s immigration laws. “Obviously the passing of the recent bill and what that means to our state, to civil liberties, and the quality and precedent it’s setting, and message it sends to the youngsters in the community — we have a problem with that,” captain Steve Nash said.
The past year has seen the beginnings of a labor movement among NCAA athletes: there are the Northwestern football players who voted to unionize this month, and the dozens of football players suing the NCAA for mishandling concussions. The All Players United movement--an NCAA reform group--made it onto the field in September, when players from Georgia and Georgia Tech played with “APU” visibly written on their wrist tap.
America’s supersize appetite for televised sports might make us the epicenter of uniform-as-protest. But even international competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics are rarely without controversy. Four Iranian players received their own lifetime bans after wearing green armbands during the 2009 World Cup, in solidarity with the Green Revolution contesting the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And though the International Olympic Committee asked athletes to refrain from sartorial protests (like rainbow nails) in Sochi, some observers still detected a political edge. The Germans, for their part, insisted their technicolor Sochi Opening Ceremonies outfits were not a statement against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.
So, this one is dedicated to the underpaid and humiliated cheerleaders of the NFL (who have been slowly organizing over the past couple of years): I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
Most Viewed Stories
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
The Fashion Executive Who Doesn’t Wear Underwear on Dates
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
The Will & Grace Reunion Was Intensely Documented for Social Media
The 6 Best Denim Shops on Etsy
Everything We Know About Brad Pitt’s Plane Incident
Amy Schumer Went All Out for the Kiss Cam at a Mets Game
The Pippa Middleton Look Book
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Love and War FeaturesAva DuVernay on Hollywood Racism, Modern-Day Slavery, and Why She’s Still an Optimist
The director, whose new documentary The 13th chronicles America’s history of racial subjugation, talks to Rebecca Traister about Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the modern criminal-justice system.What No One Tells Couples Trying to Conceive
It helps to be rich.The Hidden Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race
A segregated unit of mathematicians born of desperation during World War II became the secret to NASA’s success.Slut-Shaming Squids Are Everywhere
The “Bermuda Square” comic strip is back.Santigold’s New Video Is the Result of a Spontaneous Run-in With Kara Walker
The collaboration that dreams are made of.Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield Spotted Together Again, Love Might Be Real
They could be back together ahh!Teen, Forced to Go on Vacation With Her Family, Calls 911
The logical decision.Report: Hearst Fired Seventeen EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave
Tan had been at the magazine for about two years.Good Morning America Host Amy Robach Apologizes for Saying ‘Colored People’ on Air
She quickly apologized.Unknown NFL Player Tries to Get Attention by Asking Aly Raisman Out in Video
That’s one way to do it.
Marissa Cooper is poised for a comeback ... maybe.California Votes to Remove Time Limit on Prosecuting Rape Cases
In light of the Bill Cosby case.Beyoncé’s Behind-the-Scenes Lemonade Photos Belong in a Museum
She had the "Boycott Beyoncé" sign already in formation on set.The Rise of the Male Celebrity Full-Frontal
An ex-publicist explains.Gabby Douglas Will Be a Miss America Judge
The gold-medal gymnast will help choose the 2017 pageant winner.Camille Becerra’s Photo Diary of Rockaway Beach
An ideal trip to add and cross off your summer bucket list.Sorry Nerds, Ian McKellen Won’t Officiate Your Expensive Lord of the Rings–Themed Wedding
Not even for $1.5 million.Miles Teller Is Still Upset About Being Called a Dick
He wants to set the record straight.Why Parents Shouldn’t Talk About Weight With Their Teens
New guidelines seek to banish weight talk.UVA Student Assaulted at Knifepoint During Orientation Weekend
But some students weren't notified until 24 hours later.