CLEVELAND, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lebron James made a statement before the game against the Nets Monday by wearing a black shirt with the words "I can't breathe."
"I can't breathe" were the last words spoken by Eric Garner as NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo held him in a chokehold which resulted in Garner's death. The failure of a grand jury to indict Pantaleo in the death of Garner sparked protests across the country with people holding signs with Garner's final words. Now prominent athletes are joining the conversation.
James was joined by fellow Cavaliers players and Brooklyn Nets players including Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving and Deron Williams. They all wore the shirts during warmups before the game Monday.
"It's just for us to make a [statement] to understand what we're going through as a society," said James. "I've been quoted over and over about what's going on as far as it's more of a notion to the family, more than anything. Obviously, as a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another. It doesn't matter what race you are. It's more of a shout out to the family more than anything, because they're the ones that should be getting all the energy and effort."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he respected their right to protest.
"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," he said.
NFL members were also seen showing their support for the protest. Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush wore a shirt with the slogan during warm ups. Most coaches have stated support for their players, saying they have the right to free expression and have their support as long as the protests remain peaceful.
The St. Louis Rams received criticism from police after its players staged a "Hands up! Don't shoot!" protest in response to the failure to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. St. Louis police pressed for the players to be punished for their display, but the NFL refused, saying they were fully within their First Amendment rights to use the gesture.