Jimmy Butler has always been comfortable taking the road less traveled.
So his answer to whether he’ll wear one of the league-approved social justice messages on the back of his Miami Heat jersey shouldn’t surprise.
“I have decided not to. With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn’t go on there as well,” Butler said during his remote media availability session from the NBA’s restart on the Disney World campus in Florida. “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.
“And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”
Butler would need NBA approval for his unique idea. If he received it, it would symbolically place him back in the same status of anonymity as many African-Americans who have experienced police brutality, a crucial point in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’m hoping I get that opportunity though,” Butler said. “I really am.”
Butler admitted he considered sitting out the league’s 22-team restart to make a statement in that fashion, a strong admission from one of the league’s most competitive players. But ultimately, the former Bulls All-Star forward said just as much positive impact can occur by playing.
“Being away from your family is hard. What’s going on in the world right now it’s hard. But being here, it’s also hard. It’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “But we get the opportunity to talk amongst each other, learn about each other and everybody’s stories that’s here. And knowing that we’re all in this together, we’re all in this for the greater good. And I can tell you that everybody here is with the equality because it’s real. It needs to happen. There just has to be more action behind it.”
Butler called life inside the so-called bubble “easy,” a testament to the intricate and exhaustive planning undertaken by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. The Heat have been one of the surprise stories of the NBA season, and Butler offered a colorful answer when asked how he kept sharp during the four-month hiatus since COVID-19 paused the league.
“The whole thing was just find a way to compete, whether it be at cards or at dominoes or a footrace, whatever it is. Keep your mind thinking, ‘I have to be the best. I have to win,’” Butler said. “And then as far as working out goes, if you have a gym at your house or a basket, yeah, go ahead. Work out. Shoot. But just ride the bike. Lift some weights. Do some yoga. Do some pilates, whatever that might be. And I think the Miami Heat did a great job of using Zoom to do pilates, yoga, lift together, talk. I think that was huge to getting back to where we are right now.”
Back in April, Butler even sent portable baskets to all his teammates. So, yes, Butler is ready. He always is.