Mavs.com has learned that the Dallas Mavericks will have the word “Equality” written on the back of their jersey when the 2019-20 NBA season restarts in Orlando later this month.
Earlier, the NBA sent teams a list of words and phrases the players could place on the back of their jersey. And center/forward Dwight Powell said it was unanimous that the Mavs decided to use the word “Equality” to get their message across.
Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, J. J. Barea and Maxi Kleber will have “Equality” on the back of their jersey written in their native language, while Boban Marjanovic and the other Mavs players will have “Equality” written on the back of their jersey in English.
“I think in the conversations that we had as a team and we’ve had individually, equality is something that we know is mighty important, especially right now with what’s going on,” Powell told Mavs.com in an exclusive interview on Thursday. “For some of the guys to put that in their native language kind of lends to the fact that we’re all part of this conversation regardless of where you come from or your race, creed, religion or whatever it may be.
“There are issues of racial injustice and systemic racism in this country. We have to be part of the conversation and the fight for equality.”
The Mavs arrived in Orlando on Wednesday and will start training camp on Friday. They will restart the season on July 31 against the Houston Rockets.
In the meantime, the Mavs are hopeful of sending a meaningful message by having “Equality” on the back on their jersey.
Here is the interview Powell did with Mavs.com.
Mavs.com: What message are you guys hoping to send to people around the world by having the word “Equality” written on the back of your jersey when the Mavs resume their season on July 31 against the Houston Rockets?
Dwight Powell: We want to hopefully motivate those that are watching and those that are fans of the game to have some of those difficult conversations with the people around them and with themselves who choose to fight for equality by being anti-racist and to not sit idly by and let things happen, or participate in things that particular aren’t right. So hopefully we can help push this change and co-exist in this nation and really around the world.
Mavs.com: Was there a message that came in second place behind “Equality” that you guys almost chose?
Powell: We had some discussions before the (NBA) list came out about wanting to do something together. I think there’s some great messages that the NBA put forth for us to put on the jerseys. I think an overwhelming majority of the guys around the league have decided to have a message, so I think that’s great that collectively as a league we’re using our voice.
Mavs.com: I know this is a broad question, but how and where do we begin to try and fix social injustice in the United States.
Powell: That’s obviously a very broad question and a difficult one to answer, but I think it starts at the grassroots of everything. It starts with what’s going on right now, and that’s shedding light on an issue that some people may not choose to recognize, and that’s the racial injustice and the inequality that we’re seeing in this country. And from there it comes down to conversations – difficult conversations. Whether it’s friends, co-workers, acquaintances — whatever it may be — it’s about why people are so upset right now and what it is we’re fighting for in terms of equality. But as far as the action, I think it’s about voting. I think that’s the best way that we can participate in this fight and making sure the leadership around the country from state to state and all the way up to the very top is more representative of that fight for equality. I think that’s a great place to start – educating ourselves, educating the next generation on what’s happening, what’s going on now, and what the future should hopefully look like. So I think right now just using our voice and really having those tough conversations with the people around you and letting those conversations grow and spread, and letting the awareness and the education reach as far as possible.
Mavs.com: A lot of the protests and unrest around the world started in May following the unfortunate death of George Floyd. What went through your mind when you saw Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd cried out for his children and late mother?
Powell: My initial reaction is I felt sick to my stomach. Especially to look in (Chauvin’s) eyes and see that he really didn’t think that there was anything wrong with what he was doing. And then secondary to that, I was kind of shocked because you had the (three) other officers standing idly by and kind of watching what’s going on. But I think what’s most unfortunate is that’s not the only incident of something where an officer has abused their power in that situation. By no means do I think all police are bad at all. But I do think that a close look needs to be taken at the system that is in place in policing, and we need to better prepare for those moments, one. And two, we need to find ways to make sure they never happen again. There are bad eggs and they need to be removed from the system.
Mavs.com: Have you and your teammates decided if you guys are going to take a knee before the playing of the national anthem before the upcoming games?
Powell: We haven’t discussed that yet. We have a few weeks before we play the game.
Mavs.com: Can you kind of set the scene of what it was like last night in your Orlando hotel, which was the first night the Mavs entered the NBA bubble?
Powell: When we flew in we had a quick little meeting with (NBA deputy commissioner) Mark Tatum. He kind of let us know what was going to happen and what we were going to do next. In that very same room, they had the medical staff come in and we had our first test, and then we went immediately to our rooms and we’ve been there ever since. Food is being delivered to our room. They knock and they kind of leave the tray outside. We bring it into our room ourselves. That’s kind of been the last 20 hours or so. We’ll have another test. We’ll be tested in our rooms in a few hours again, and then once the results of those two tests come back – given if they’re negative – then we’ll be able to go on with practice tomorrow.
Mavs.com: What was different on the team flight from Dallas to Orlando yesterday than the previous plane trips? Were the players and coaches and staff wearing a mask?
Powell: I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it really was. Obviously we’ve all been wearing masks in our daily lives. I think everyone was a little nervous to put on a mask in the morning and have it on for literally the entire day, but it wasn’t that bad. We were socially distanced on the plane. We didn’t have our normal seat, because we were traveling with a much smaller party. We could spread out around the plane, so everyone had good space around them. The flight attendants kind of set things out for us beforehand, so they didn’t really spend any time in the aisles. It was very little movement on the plane. It was a bit of a boring flight. It wasn’t as bad as you might think.
Mavs.com: What concerns do you have by being in Orlando considering that the state of Florida has some of the highest cases of coronavirus in the entire United States?
Powell: It’s obviously a concern when you think about it from that perspective as far as being currently in a state with a high number of (coronavirus) cases. But as the same time the protocols that we have in place and the design of this “bubble” is such that the outside world really shouldn’t have as much of an effect on what we have going on here inside (the bubble). When it comes to testing, we’re being tested daily. So as far as transmission within our group if someone was to unfortunately get infected, they would know very quickly and they’ll be able to kind of stop that spread. But at the same time, the way we’re going about things, the minimal interactions you have with anyone really outside our team – let along outside the bubble – even though we’re in Florida, I think that we’re in a safe space here.
Mavs.com: What’s your reaction to the Major Soccer League recently sending FC Dallas back home from Orlando because FC Dallas had 10 players test positive for COVID-19?
Powell: It’s sad to hear that. First and foremost, I hope those guys are alright. Hopefully they’ll recover quickly, but yeah, that’s unfortunate. I think in these unfortunate times there’s a lot of unknowns and a lot of figuring out things. I think we need to just try our best to try and learn from what happened in that situation and do the best we can to protect ourselves, to protect our teammates and protect our league. It’s very unfortunate, but we’re going to try our best to follow these protocols of maintaining social distancing. We’re going to be having our mask on at any time when we’re not on the court or in our private rooms. There are hand sanitizer stations everywhere. We’ll wash our hands very regularly. We’re going to do everything in our power to keep ourselves and our teammates safe.
Mavs.com: Since all the games are going to be played in Orlando, there’s absolutely no home court advantage for either of the 22 teams there. Is that a good or bad thing for the Mavericks?
Powell: I think there’s going to be some digitally re-created court sounds, and I think there might be opportunities for some “home” team branding as far as the screens around the court. So we’ll still get a little bit of a feel of being at home. But obviously I think everyone is aware that this is such a unique situation, and we’ve all been kind of dying to get back into the competitive mindset and competitive mode. I think regardless of home court or not and regardless of the fact that there won’t be 20,000 fans in the arena surrounding us, guys are going to compete to the highest level because there’s still a championship on the line. I think this situation is a great chance to prove a team’s toughness, so guys are going to go out there and give it their all regardless.
Mavs.com: You underwent season-ending surgery on Jan. 28 to repair your torn right Achilles tendon. How is the rehab come along?
Powell: I’ve gotten it ramping up and we’re starting to talk about game-plans and we’re starting to talk about competing again. It’s tough to be on the sidelines, but the rehab is going well. Everything is on schedule, so I’m thankful for that. I’m just trying to stay patience with it and not rush it and make sure that when I come back that I’m back for good.
Mavs.com: Since the NBA has announced that the 2020-21 season will start on Dec. 1, do you think you’ll be ready to play by then?
Powell: If everything goes as scheduled I should be ready well before then. So long as I stay healthy and follow along with the protocols that we have that’s on the itinerary ahead of me, I should be ready to go.
Mavs.com: Since the restart of the 2019-20 season is set to begin later this month, is this going to be a mental grind, since none of the players and coaches and staff can leave the bubble?
Powell: Yeah, for sure. It’s a unique scenario. It’s a different set of circumstances that no one is really used to. It’s going to take some adjustments getting used to it. But like I said earlier, guys are starting to shift their mindsets from shelter in place to compete, and I think these next couple of weeks we’ll be given a chance to get used to being a team as far as testing and the meals and the way to move around campus and to safely coordinate with your teammates. Once that kind of adjustment phase is over, guys will just be locked into competing. Once they toss it up it’s back to doing what we love, so guys are going to go back to that mindset.
Mavs.com: With you guys locked away in this bubble and away from family and friends for over a month, how important and fortunate are you that the Mavs have a team psychologist in Don Kalkstein to help all of you guys from a mental standpoint?
Powell: It’s great, for sure. I think his role doesn’t really change in this situation. He does a great job of being there for all of us and maintaining a pretty close relationship with all of us, and we feel comfortable to try to go to him with whatever it may be. So now it’s obviously a unique set of circumstances, and it’s great to have him here to lean on if we have anything that we need to talk about or get off our chest.
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