Basketball jerseys might seem like an odd medium for honoring historical figures or making political statements, but maybe the post-Kaepernick sports era is more woke than the one before it. It's certainly made for better designs, if these images of the Memphis Grizzlies team jerseys are any indication.
The Grizzlies will wear these jerseys in January 2017 to honor Martin Luther King Jr., and the subtle touches in the design inform how well the whole thing came together. Instead of a straightforward image of King, the jersey's aesthetics reference the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968.
The piping, for example, looks like the motel's walkway railings, and the teal accents are the same color as the motel's doors. Additionally, the wreath hanging on the motel's facade in remembrance of King's death is included in the jersey design. The Grizzlies talk more about the design here; even the black color and design of the wordmark come from the Lorraine.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) September 14, 2016
Even if it was ugly, this jersey would earn points for its sentimental subject matter. But again, the fact that every detail was so carefully considered makes the overall design work. This kind of intentionality is something more teams should consider, really. Referencing specific landmarks and history in the details of a jersey design conveys a certain respect for the community that any good sports team should have anyway.
It would certainly make the owner's inevitable request for a new, taxpayer-funded stadium easier to stomach, too.
The jersey will help kick off the National Civil Rights Museum's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination in April 2018. "The MLK50 Pride uniform to be worn for the first time on Jan. 15 during our annual weekend Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration is a means of both furthering our partnership with the National Civil Rights Museum and creating awareness of the museum's vital message of social and economic justice in our city, our nation and the world," said Grizzlies president of business operations Jason Wexler.