As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, the Birmingham Squadron of the NBA G-League is celebrating its hometown’s role in the civil rights movement and the integration of sports with special jerseys.
The Squadron, the G-League affiliate of the New Orleans Pelicans, unveiled the jerseys on Wednesday, January 3rd on their website. They will be worn during their two home games against the Raptors 905 on Saturday, January 13th, and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 15th) itself.
The jerseys are mostly black, featuring three white Bs arranged in a triangle on the chest. The Bs pay homage to the Birmingham Black Barons, a baseball team that played in the Negro League from 1920 to 1960. The collar and arm trim are red, with a wide red stripe and a narrow white stripe partially extending down each side.
„The history of Birmingham’s civil rights movement and the nation cannot be told without the Birmingham Black Barons. From 1920 to 1962, the Black Barons called the Magic City home. Many did not know it was not just about the baseball with the Birmingham Black Barons. Team owner Abe Saperstein also owned the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters, and many Black Barons wore Globetrotters uniforms in the off-season to supplement their income.“
— Birmingham Squadron
The numbers on the front and back of the jerseys are in the Squadron’s customary typeface—adopted from their parent club in New Orleans—and are in white with red trim. The NBA G-League logo runs down the back of the jerseys just below the collar.
The Wednesday announcement did not include photos of the accompanying shorts, but the team indicated that the Birmingham skyline will be integrated into its design.
„It is an honor for us to celebrate and acknowledge the Birmingham Black Barons by wearing these special jerseys,“ said Squadron General Manager Leslie Claybrook via the team’s website. „The history of the Black Barons in the Magic City and on a national level is quite remarkable and must continue to be told. These special jerseys contribute in a small part to keeping the legacy in memory.“
Game-worn jerseys will be auctioned during both games, with proceeds benefiting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, „which continues to tell the stories of the men who paved the way for our current sports landscape.“
During their time, the Black Barons featured future Baseball Hall of Famers such as Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Mule Suttles, and Willie Wells. Singer Charley Pride also played for the Black Barons in 1953 before his music career took off.
The Black Barons have been honored on two other occasions. Initially, in 1999, the Double-A Birmingham Barons faced off against the Huntsville Stars, with both teams donning retro jerseys. Then, in February 2006, ESPN Classic aired a throwback game from Rickwood Field in Birmingham, with the gameplay, equipment, and umpire uniforms reflecting the look of baseball in the 1940s. Players in the game wore the uniforms of the Black Barons and those of a fictional team, the Bristol Barnstormers.