I usually don’t like to do these kinds of “hey, a press release!” posts, and when I do, I usually do them on the Beyond the Arc blog where they’re a better fit. But today’s news from the Grizzlies seemed worth a mention to an audience that isn’t just made up of sports fans. From their announcement:
The Memphis Grizzlies and the National Civil Rights Museum will host a conversation on the intersection of social justice and sports tomorrow, Sept. 14 at the museum featuring Grizzlies Head Coach David Fizdale, Grizzlies guard/forward Vince Carter, National Civil Rights Museum President Terri Lee Freeman and Museum Board Member & Grizzlies Partner J.R. ‘Pitt’ Hyde. This event is closed to the public, but media is invited to attend.
During the event, the Grizzlies will also unveil their 2016–17 MLK50 pride uniform, set to debut on the hardwood at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration game on January 15 vs. Chicago. The MLK50 uniform will tip-off the National Civil Rights Museum’s upcoming remembrance of the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and will be worn at various games during Black History Month to bring greater awareness to the National Civil Rights Museum at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel, and to drive a deeper understanding of the history behind the movement for social justice that defined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in life and in death.
The Grizzlies have always done a good job embracing Memphis’ relationship to the Civil Rights movement, and have always done a much better job than the NBA itself at emphasizing the things that matter—doing what they can to center the conversation about race and equality rather than sports and marketing. The NBA’s slate of games on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday used to start with the Grizzlies at home, and the Grizzlies’ commemoration of the holiday centered around a symposium on race in sports hosted in partnership with the National Civil Rights Museum.
This year, the Grizzlies play the night before, the first time a game hasn’t been in Memphis on national television the day. The Grizzlies say they have a whole slate of events planned for the weekend, and I hope they do, because it’s an opportunity for real reflection on the city’s past and its future.
The MLK50 jersey seems to be a continuation of that partnership with the museum. I’m interested to see what sort of jersey they’ve come up with for the occasion; it’s admittedly an odd thing to commemorate with an alternate jersey. But whatever comes of it, the franchise deserves recognition for trying to do right by Memphis’ legacy rather than score easy marketing points.