The shirt refers to Eric Garner, the New York man who died in July after a police officer placed him in a chokehold while he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
A grand jury decided Wednesday that it would not indict the officer in Garner's death. A videotape recording of the arrest shows Garner gasping and saying, "I can't breathe,'' during the fatal encounter. Thousands have protested the grand jury decision around the country since the announcement of the decision.
This is one of the biggest social statements Rose has made in his professional career. Before the season began, he donated $1 million to After School Matters, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that helps teenagers. The former MVP also has been outspoken about trying to control the violence that has gripped various parts of Chicago, his hometown, in recent years.
While Rose did not speak to the media after the game, his teammates were happy to see him stand up for what he believes in. Rose told some of his closest friends and confidants what he was planning to do before the game.
"I knew that Derrick was going to put that T-shirt on," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "I think he has every right to express his beliefs. He told me that he was going to wear it. I respect Derrick a lot. I think he's definitely making a statement by wearing it. That's my guy."
Noah said he thinks it's important that professional athletes use their platforms to make social statements.
"Yeah. If that's what he wants to do, I respect it," Noah said. "I think a lot of people feel that way. When you wear a T-shirt with a statement everybody's going to know how you feel about it. I respect Derrick 150 percent and I'm riding with him ... a lot of people feel that way. It's really sad what happened. Police brutality is something that ... it happens. Not every cop is a bad person. Not every black person is a bad person. You can't judge people. But he definitely made a statement by wearing that T-shirt."
Bulls power forward Taj Gibson was also happy to see Rose express his beliefs on the floor.
"I thought it was great," Gibson said. "I thought it was just him speaking his mind, speaking out. It's a good thing for a positive movement. We just got to get back to just focusing on basketball. It was good for us, good for him especially, but it's rough after you lose tonight."
Rose's gesture comes a day after NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson said this generation's athletic superstars should be more socially active.
"They have to get involved socially," Johnson said Friday. "They have to because it affects them, too. And it affects their families. They grew up in these situations; they must not forget that. They [were] once poor, they went to inner-city schools that didn't have technology or computers, they didn't have good books. See, I went through that whole situation. They went through that as well. A lot of their cousins are still going through that, so they must not forget that. I hope that they would do more."
Rose isn't the first member of the Bulls to make headlines for making a statement with a T-shirt. Former teammate Luol Deng wore one with an outline of Africa on it as he was introduced before the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida.
Information from ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Rose Wears 'I Can't Breathe' Shirt In Protest
Joakim Noah comments on teammate Derrick Rose's decision to use his platform to make a statement. Rose wore a t-shirt reading "I Can't Breathe" in reference to Eric Garner, the New York man who died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold.
Protesting And Sports Have Always Mixed
Those who insist sports and protests such as Michael Brown and Eric Garner should not mix, ignore that they have always been mixed. Keith Olbermann explains.