Nigel Hayes, an Outspoken Star With Wisconsin, Signs With the Knicks

Nigel Hayes, an Outspoken Star With Wisconsin, Signs With the Knicks

The Knicks signed three free agents Friday, including Nigel Hayes, a forward from Wisconsin who helped lead the Badgers to two Final Fours and who became recognized later in his college career for his outspokenness in addressing social issues.

Hayes played for the Knicks’ summer league team in Orlando, Fla., where he averaged 5.2 points and 5 rebounds in five games. As a senior at Wisconsin, Hayes averaged 14 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Early in Hayes’s senior year, he regularly engaged his Twitter followers in discussion about the Black Lives Matter movement. In November, after a Wisconsin student attended a football game wearing a mask of President Barack Obama with a noose around the neck, Hayes joined other students in condemning the action and noting instances of racism toward black student-athletes at the university.

A month before that episode, Hayes had argued on social media that student-athletes deserved more financial compensation. He furthered his message by attending ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast from Madison, Wis., carrying a sign that read “Broke college athlete, anything helps.”

In an interview with The New York Times he conducted with two other Badgers players in mid-November, Hayes said: “I’ll be black more of my life than I’ll be a professional basketball player. It does not make sense for me not to say something at the point of my life when I can have the most impact. I’m playing basketball, and more of you are listening, which is why more of you are pissed and telling me to stop.”

In May, before graduating from Wisconsin, Hayes re-examined those issues in a story for The Players’ Tribune titled “Don’t Just Shut Up and Play.”

Hayes may have made some enemies in his new city, however, when he made his feelings about New York City clear before an N.C.A.A. tournament game at Madison Square Garden in May. “I don’t really like New York,” he said. “It’s too big, it’s dirty, trash everywhere, too many people.”

In the Knicks, he will join a franchise that last year found itself involved in a series of incidents with racial undertones. The former team president Phil Jackson drew some criticism over his use of the word “posse” to describe LeBron James’s management team and close friends, and the team created a firestorm when the former Knick Charles Oakley was physically removed from a game at Madison Square Garden and arrested.

This off-season, however, the Knicks have drawn praise for reshaping their front office. Steve Mills was promoted to team president after Jackson’s dismissal, and Scott Perry was hired as general manager, making the Knicks the only N.B.A. team to have African-Americans in those front-office positions.

In addition, the Knicks signed Pittsburgh’s Jamel Artis and Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Terms of the deals were not disclosed, but ESPN, which first reported Hayes’s signing, said his deal was partially guaranteed.

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Published at Sat, 19 Aug 2017 02:08:17 +0000

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