The rapper Jay-Z and a security guard at Barclays Center were involved in the process that led to Nets and Cavaliers players wearing black t-shirts bearing the phrase "I Can't Breathe" during warmups on Monday night, according to a report from the New York Times.
Members of Justice League NYC, a task force that has helped stage protests in the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict an officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, moved to supply replicas of the shirt to James and other players before the game in Brooklyn after hearing comments from James on Sunday.
An associate of Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Records, contacted a writer who had worked with Jay-Z, who spoke with James and gave Nets point guard Deron Williams the phone number of Simmons' associate.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Williams communicated to the associate via text message that he and his teammates wanted the shirts.
Three members of the Justice League NYC -- which had 82 shirts printed at a shop in Long Island City -- then delivered a box of shirts to a security guard. From the report:
The final hurdle was navigating the T-shirts past arena security. The N.B.A.’s stance was clear: The league did not want its players wearing the T-shirts during warm-ups. So Williams recruited a security guard to take the large box from Aminzadeh, Perez and Brown on the Dean Street entrance of the arena, Skolnik said.
It felt risky, Aminzadeh said, because the street was already flooded with police officers and other security personnel. So he tried to be discreet.
“We didn’t want the whole operation to get shut down before it happened,” said Aminzadeh, who piled 38 of the T-shirts in a box, more than enough for players and both teams’ support staffs, and kept the remainder for protesters who were beginning to gather outside. He made the handoff to the security guard at 6:30 p.m.
Nets players wore the shirts delivered by the Justice League, according to the report, while guard Jarrett Jack brought three other shirts, provided by his agent, to the Cavaliers locker room, which James and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving wore.
Lakers players donned similar shirts prior to Tuesday night's game against the Sacramento Kings. The NBA reportedly will not fine the players for wearing the shirts, but commissioner Adam Silver has said that "my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules."