Understanding Group Economics In The NBA
The NBA has allowed players to sport a social justice message on their jerseys.‘Group Economics’ is one of the unconventional ones allowed. In this article, we take a look at what this means for the future of the sport and its African American players.
What Does ‘Group Economics’ Mean On NBA Players’ Jerseys?
More than 280 players at the NBA today have sported a social justice message on the back of their jerseys in the NBA bubble. Most stars, with the exception of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard, have a meaningful message in place of their names. But what does ‘Group Economics’ even mean? How does it communicate an antiracist message?
Broadly speaking, the term ‘Group Economics’ refers to groups of people who pool their resources so that they can accomplish something they otherwise might not be able to as individuals.
In the context of the Black community, the term has often been used to talk about the importance of creating and supporting Black-owned businesses that in turn help to support the larger Black population, directly. This is now the practice of group economics which is basically a group of people who have a common economic interest. Having a common economic interest motivates these people to actively pursue what they want in order to create a secure economy for all participants in that ‘group economics’.
African Americans in America could follow ‘group economics’ in a bid to have a secure future for their community without much help from the outside. Group economics is what fuels cooperatives, which dominate the dairy industry in many countries.
Lurking in the background of the NBA’s political activism isn’t so much contemporary left-wing ideas, rather racially communalist ideas (group economics, etc) that recognizes the immense economic power this relatively small group of blacks have. Given that as a race, black people in America are one of the poorest ethnic groups in the country, group economics is a unifying idea. Those who have worn it on the back of their jerseys are essentially encouraging them to bond together and work for a common interest. It’s an empowering idea that needs to be embraced more often.
NBA players who have sported ‘Group Economics’ on the back of their jerseys in the restart are Andre Iguodala, Anthony Tolliver, and Jabari Parker. Spencer Dinwiddie, a point guard for the Brooklyn Nets was supposed to have it on his jersey too, but he missed the restart entirely with an injury. Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver initially remembers thinking it was a joke. About a year later, he started to read up on the topic and quickly came around. Iguodala, along with several other players, joined him.
Today, almost six years later, Tolliver and Iguodala have become members of the NBPA’s executive committee, advocating for “Group Economics” to be included on the list of social justice messages players could wear on their jerseys once the season reopened in Florida. Three players chose it: Tolliver, Iguodala, and Kings forward Jabari Parker. (“Black Lives Matter” and “Equality” were the two most popular options among players, per an NBA spokesperson.)
Anthony Tolliver and Group Economics
Tolliver chose “group economics” after experiencing the past few years reading up on how past efforts in Black communities to band together economically were suppressed by bigotry.
“I look back at our history and see that that has happened in the past,” Tolliver said. “Black Wall Street in Tulsa, and multiple other instances, where when we banded together and implemented group economics to better our lives, it was burned down. And so that for me was another piece of this whole pie: not only representing and encouraging that again, but also bringing light to the history of us doing it and it being literally taken away from us, for nothing.”
More recently, Tolliver’s jersey was already sparking curiosity among other players. Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton “asked me during a game, ‘Hey, what is Group Economics?’ ” Tolliver said with a laugh. “We were literally walking out of a timeout and I was like, ‘Hey, I’ll, uh, I’ll tell you later. Interesting time to ask me this.’ ”
The power forward from Memphis Grizzlies has been reading Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, an award-winning book that details how the federal government authorized racial segregation. As an NBA player, he initially wanted to wear “Redlining” on his jersey to highlight that history, but the committee’s consensus was that the broader “Group Economics” could suggest more types of injustice without limiting the need for thought and action around any of them. And once Tolliver really started to think about it, Group Economics touched every area of the civil rights movement he could think of, from police reform to balancing our lopsided education system.
“Property taxes fund education,” Tolliver said. “If you give people opportunity financially and they make more money, they’re going to put more money into their houses, which increases their value, which increases their taxes, which betters their education.”
“Group Economics” could be worn on a player’s jersey as a powerful message, and economic justice for African Americans in the 21st century. For example, after Hurricane Katrina ravaged South Louisiana, it was the Black Americans who were abandoned by their country.
The concept of stitching social justice messages on NBA jerseys was never meant to solve any of society’s core problems. The goal was always to maintain an ongoing fight and spread awareness. The decision to include a less obvious option like Group Economics does that as well as any of the others.
“There’s a lot of words we chose that would’ve been fine,” Tolliver said. “Equality, peace, justice. So many great concepts. But that’s not going to spur on a conversation.”