By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
During the shutdown of the NBA season due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the world has joined in protesting police brutality and racial injustices that continue to impact many American cities. While the riots in response to the senseless murder of George Floyd by the hand of Minneapolis officers have subsided, several cities continue to protest the racial injustices and continuous murders of unarmed Black men. Multiple prominent players question whether it’s in their best interest to even play the remainder of the NBA?
Whether it’s the health concerns swirling around the Corona Virus, continuous attacks on the Black community across the country, or a combination of both, NBA Players are questioning how to properly assert their influence of power as well as ensure their voices impact change on our society’s current climate. After many of the league’s top players committed to return to action a couple of weeks ago, the talented, yet often aloof, Kyrie Irving, led a conference call this past Friday, ensuring the voices of the other players in the league were heard before the league returns to play.
Irving and a few other players voiced concerns on the call about whether the season should even continue. Kyrie and Lakers Avery Bradley put out this passionate mission statement for the new NBA Coalition:
“We are a group of men and women from different teams and industries that are normally painted as opponents, but have put our egos and differences aside to make sure we stand united and demand honesty during this uncertain time.
Native indigenous African Caribbean men and women entertaining the world, we will continue to use our voices and platforms for positive change and truth.
We are truly at an inflection point in history whereas a collective community, we can band together — UNIFY — and move as one. We need all our people with us and we will stand together in solidarity.
As an oppressed community we are going on 500-plus years of being systemically targeted, used for our IP [intellectual property]/Talent, and also still being killed by the very people that are supposed to ‘protect and serve’ us.
“WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!”
We are combating the issues that matter most: We will not accept the racial injustices that continue to be ignored in our communities. We will not be kept in the dark when it comes to our health and well-being. And we will not ignore the financial motivations/expectations that have prevented us historically from making sound decisions.
This is not about individual players, athletes, or entertainers. This is about our group of strong men and women uniting for change. We have our respective fields; however, we will not just shut up and play to distract us from what this whole system has been about: Use and Abuse.
We are all fathers, daughters’ leaders and so much more. So, what is our BIG picture? We are in this for UNITY and CHANGE!” In support of Kyrie’s comments, equally awkward, Dwight Howard had the following response, “I agree with Kyrie (Irving). Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure, it might not distract us the players, but we have resources at hand majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them, can start a trickledown effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just to (sic) beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families. This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families? This is where our Unity starts. At home! With Family!! European Colonization stripped us of our rich history, and we have yet to sit down and figure us out. The less distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It’s time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved.”
I would like to know what these players believe they would accomplish by not playing. Austin Rivers, son of Clippers Head Coach, Doc Rivers, has eluded to this via his post on Instagram: “Us coming back would put money in all of our (NBA players’) pockets, With this money, you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the BLM movement. Which I’m 100 percent on board with. Because change needs to happen and injustice has been going on too long.” Rivers added: “I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement, It’s admirable and inspiring. I’m with it … but not at the cost of the whole NBA and players’ careers. We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived. I think we have [to]! But canceling and boycotting [a] return doesn’t do that in my opinion. Guys want to play and provide and help change!”
Understanding the temperature of his players as he always has, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver remains confident things will be worked out and that they will complete their season. Silver, said as much in his statement to ESPN Monday evening: “Listen, it’s not an ideal situation. We are trying to find a way to our own normalcy in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of essentially a recession or worse with 40 million unemployed, and now with enormous social unrest in the country. And so, as we work through these issues, I can understand how some players may feel, that it’s not for them. It may be for family reasons, it may be for health reasons they have, or it may be because they feel — as some players have said very recently — that their time is best spent elsewhere.”
Silver continues to show his solid commitment to the progressiveness of the league and what that means to the climate of our country when he states: “… in terms of social justice issues, it’ll be an opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to the issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA in Orlando if we’re able to pull this off. … What should this league, that may have a unique opportunity as compared to almost any other organization in the world, be doing in response to George Floyd’s death, to endemic racial issues in society? I’ve heard this loud and clear — the statements have been issued, foundations have been announced, contributions. But there’s an expectation that there’s more that this league can do; and I think part of its going to require a fair amount of listening, something we’ve been doing already. But then engaging in very deliberate behavior, together with the players, in terms of how can we use our larger platform, the NBA together with the players, really to affect change.”
I think It’s awesome these players want to make an impact off the court. However, I believe the NBA players can make their voices heard every night when microphones and cameras would be readily available to broadcast their thoughts and opinions across the globe to the tens of millions of people who will be tuning into watch them do their thing on the court. My hope is players will consult with community leaders and activist to help guide them in how to maximize the use of their platforms.
I truly believe this is the optimum time for the players to demand the NBA invest in the inner cities around the country and demand programs are put in place to develop future league leaders. As undoubtedly many eyes and ears will be fixated on seeing how they handle this situation, I agree with 2X Gold Medalist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, as he stated: “if they don’t play, they’re going to be out of sight, out of mind for the rest of the year. I have no idea what Kyrie and Dwight are talking about. But it would be a catastrophic mistake not to play.”
What are your thoughts on the NBA taking their season to Florida during this pandemic: are you at all concerned for the players health? Though either action, playing or not playing, will undoubtedly send a message to America, do you think it’s important for players to return to the game with all that is going on in the world? Kindly share your thoughts on who’s word had the most impact by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward your thoughts to email@example.com. Additionally, be sure to subscribe to our weekly “Voice of the Fans Podcast” which is available for you on most podcasting platforms; Apple and Google Podcasts including Spotify, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio. As always, Thank You for making our voice, your choice!