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NBA players make statement with ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts

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LOS ANGELES — Fans and the public must understand the message being delivered by NBA players who wear “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts, Los Angeles Lakers forward Carlos Boozer said.

The players aren’t anti-law enforcement, according to Boozer. They just want an end to what they believe are the senseless killings of unarmed black men such as Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York, to name a few.

“The biggest thing is to create awareness,” Boozer said after the Lakers defeated the Sacramento Kings 98-95 Tuesday night. “We’ve got to treat each other better as people. To do something wrong and criminal, you treat people differently. You don’t kill them.”

The Lakers were the latest NBA club to don “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warmups and on the bench during the game Tuesday, adding to the growing number of NBA players who have worn the shirts.

The slogan quotes the final words of Garner, a 43-year-old New York man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a police officer. Last week, a grand jury decided against indicting the officer in connection with Garner’s death.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was the first to wear one of the shirts last weekend. Forward LeBron James and guard Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and forward Kevin Garnett and guard Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets, among others, followed Rose’s lead Tuesday night in New York. Additional teams and NBA players are expected to wear the T-shirts this week.

“I feel as though I really take my hat off to guys, Derrick Rose who started it off and then the Brooklyn Nets and the Cavs, who are standing up for what they believe in,” said Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player. “That’s what I’m always about, even though it might make people uncomfortable, those guys stood up for what they believe in.”

Boozer said, referring to law enforcement, “For us, we just want to band together and send a message that you have to treat people better. Just trying to band together with our community and show support.”

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant passed the T-shirts out to teammates before Tuesday’s game.

The players will not be sanctioned by the NBA for wearing the shirts.

“I respect Derrick Rose and all of our players for voicing their personal views on important issues, but my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules,” commissioner Adam Silver said Monday.

Los Angeles center Jordan Hill said the Lakers and other NBA players have talked about how they will continue to use their platform to promote their message but haven’t decided what the next step will be.

Still, Hill said the T-shirts are having a significant impact.

“It’s a very powerful shirt, a very powerful saying,” Hill said. “We just want to be supportive in any way we can. It’s sad and heartbreaking, but we want to share that everybody matters.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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