LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There are numerous NBA players who have “Jr.” and numerals on the back of their jerseys out of respect for their fathers. But there is only one player in the league who wears “Sr.” out of respect for his young son and for being a proud father: LA Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr.
For the restart of the NBA season, however, Morris is taking his name off the back of his jersey. Instead, he will display a social justice message: “Education Reform.”
“This is bigger,” Morris told The Undefeated last week after practicing with the Clippers, who resume their season Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. “Obviously, all our purposes are bigger. Guys know who I am. The world knows who I am. I just want to address some social issues. …
“Black Lives Matter. That’s first. People have lost their lives to senseless cop actions. That is first. I just wanted to do something deeper in the community. I am from that. So, I understand the transition. As a community, we can start there [with education reform] in doing some things.”
NBA players were involved in nationwide protests and have been vocal in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor’s death on March 13 in Louisville, Kentucky, at the hands of police. When the season resumes, players will have the option of selecting from a list of social justice messages to post on the back of their jerseys.
The list, according to a source, includes: Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can’t Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, Education Reform and Mentor.
Players can choose up to two social justice phrases to display on their jerseys, which are expected to be auctioned off for charity. Morris also plans to wear “Equality” during the season.
The social justice message will be placed over the number on the back of the players’ jerseys during the first four days of the resumed season. After that, a player who still wants to use a social justice message can have it above his jersey number on the back, while adding their last name on the bottom of the jersey.
“I am going to continue to use it,” Morris said. “Four days, that is nothing. Everybody can tune in every other day and see that. As this message continues to get pushed and gets bigger, I’m just willing to wear it the entire season.”
That Morris is forgoing using “Morris Sr.” on his jersey during the restart is noteworthy. Morris takes great pride in his tribute to his son, who was born in 2018.
“After I had my son, I wanted to do something with [my name],” Morris told The Undefeated in March. “When you look around the league, I am the only one. I wanted to do something different. It actually meant a lot to me. It’s my first child. I just wanted to do that to honor him.”
Morris takes fatherhood seriously in large part because he grew up without a father. Morris, along with his twin brother Markieff Morris of the Lakers and three other brothers (Blake, David and Donte) were raised by their single mother, Thomasine “Angel” Morris.
“I want my son to know that back in the day I did something for him,” Morris said. “Me and my brother never had our father. … My mom has been there through every part of our lives. My grandfather, who is now 90, he is in my life. He has an old-school mentality, which is why we are so wise way above our years. He basically raised us. He was there for us. It means so much more to me that I am in my child’s life.”
Morris, who told reporters on Friday that he would be leaving the bubble in September for the birth of his second son, said he is both hopeful and fearful about raising two Black boys in America today.
“Today’s society is a little different in how we grew up as far as the social media stuff with what is going on now,” Morris said. “From day one, they will be able to comprehend and know what is going on. I’m going to be able to teach them that. I didn’t have my father growing up. Some things I learned the hard way.
“I’m just happy to be in their life. I’m happy to be a father.”
Morris celebrated his son’s second birthday on July 20 via FaceTime inside the NBA bubble. While it was tough for him to not be there physically, he enjoyed watching video of his son running with cake all over his face.
Morris is thankful for the extra time he got to spend with his son during the pandemic. He said the best part of the day was waking up with his son at 6 a.m.
“It was great to be with family,” Morris said. “I actually really got a chance to really be a parent the last couple of months. So, I enjoyed it. …
“I love my son to death. It shows our true purpose.”
The Clippers, who have championship aspirations, acquired the 30-year-old Morris from the New York Knicks on Feb. 6 in a three-team trade that also included the Washington Wizards. After averaging 19.6 points and 5.4 rebounds with the Knicks, the nine-year NBA veteran started 12 games with the Clippers, averaging 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds with little practice time before the season was shut down.
During the pandemic, Morris was able to become more familiar with his teammates and joined them for training in Los Angeles and Florida. Clippers coach Doc Rivers believes Morris will be a key contributor going forward.
“He will be much better,” Rivers told The Undefeated. “Obviously, missing time hurts. But now we can have practices with him instead of just throwing him out on the floor. It will help in a big way.”
Morris can’t wait to get started again.
“During COVID, keeping in contact with these guys, I was able to reset,” Morris said. “I thought as a team when I was here we played well. We were 7-1 our last eight games. I don’t think I played as well as I could. This reset was good for me. I’m excited.”