WASHINGTON -- LeBron James took the court before Monday night's game in Brooklyn wearing a T-shirt with the words "I can't breathe," showing solidarity with protesters nationwide who are speaking out against the police killing of Eric Garner.
Brooklyn Nets players Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson, as well as one of James' teammates, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, also came out wearing the shirt in advance of the game, which was set to be attended by Great Britain's Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, James received his shirt from Jack, who used to play for the Cavaliers.
The shirt is the same design worn before Saturday night's NBA game by Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, which James told the New York Daily News he admired.
"It was spectacular," James said about Rose's shirt. “I loved it. I’m looking for one.”
When asked about the shirt before the game, James said, "As a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another no matter what race you are. But it’s more of a shoutout to the family more than anything because they’re the ones who should be getting the energy and effort.”
Garner died on July 17 after a police officer put him in a chokehold and pushed him to the ground in order to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." The scene was captured on video by a bystander. A Staten Island grand jury, however, recently decided not to indict the police officer, sparking nationwide protests.
Silver said he respected the fact that Rose and other players wanted to voice their "personal views on important issues" but added that his "preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules."
“I think it’s really important that we show our respect to the families,” said Irving in the locker room before the game, according to USA Today. “More importantly we’re in the city where tragedy happened and it’s really important to us that we stand up for a cause, especially this one. It hits close to home and means a lot to me."
Displays of support for Garner were also happening outside Barclays Center on Monday night. Protesters spoke about Garner's death and the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot by a police officer in August, and a grand jury recently voted not to indict him.
People held up signs -- some of them directed at the royal couple -- reading "I can't breathe." They chanted, "Hands up, don't shoot," which has become the rallying cry related to Brown's death.
Several NFL players have also worn "I can't breathe" messages in recent days.
Some photos from the Nets-Cavaliers game on Monday night:
— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) December 9, 2014
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) December 9, 2014
Kyrie is wearing I CAN'T BREATHE shirt in warmups. Same as Rose's. pic.twitter.com/QvzWjvyN6y
— alex (@steven_lebron) December 8, 2014
Kyrie Irving is wearing an "I Can't Breathe" T-shirt before game vs Nets in Brooklyn. pic.twitter.com/rksutE8yP2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 8, 2014
— Terri (@terribenn8) December 9, 2014
Right RT @ellievhall: "You want to see our city, but do you care about our problems?"
— Chalky White (@LogicalHater) December 9, 2014
— Zandir Santos (@ZandirSantos) December 9, 2014
UPDATE: 10:50 p.m. -- The royal couple did end up attending the game, and they met James:
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) December 9, 2014