By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media
Draymond Green, 30, who has won three National Basketball Association (NBA) Championships with the San Francisco-based Golden State Warriors, is known to be an agitator on the court.
Now, the three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection has mounted an attack off the hardwood in another arena: Politics. Green is speaking out, online and off, expressing his displeasure for Assembly Bill (AB) 1998, the “Dental Practice Act,” which is authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell).
Low’s district covers parts of the South Bay and Silicon Valley. Home to a number of tech companies, the area is more than 50% White and under 3% African American. Latinos account for about 17%.
Last week, Green fired off a series of tweets directed at AB 1998 and Low. He tagged the politician in them.
The NBA player went on the defense after Low made an indirect reference to him in a published report. “No Californian deserves to be harmed by substandard, profit-hungry care, regardless of whether they’re an NBA champion,” the politician said.
Green took Low’s comment as a flagrant foul — aggressive contact, in this case, coming from a politician against an opponent.
Green shot back, telling Low his bill would hamper low-income communities’ access to dental products.
“The only issue of profits here is you giving more to dentists, while, once again, underserved communities are shut out. Sounds like you’d prefer if I shut up and dribble @Evan_Low,” Green tweeted on July 10, the day Low’s comment surfaced in the media.
AB 1998, the “Dental Practice Act,” if passed by the California Senate, would require dentists to conduct an in-person examination of their patients prior to approving a treatment plan for clear aligners or other orthodontics.
The bill would also prohibit internet companies from offering direct-to-consumer products to Californians until legislation is passed that establishes parameters for how teleorthodontic companies may operate.
Green’s political pushback against AB 1998 may be rooted in more than one stake the athlete has in teledentistry. Green has a financial investment in the SmileDirectClub (SDC), a global leader in the online dental care industry. He also shares personal stories of how affordable direct-mail dental products helped him fix his teeth and regain his confidence while he was growing up.
SDC markets non-prescription straightening aligners at discounted costs to correct teeth-positioning problems.
In September 2019, Forbes reported that Green started investing in SDC four years earlier in 2015 at a $150 million valuation. The financial publication also mentioned that Green could make 40 times more from his investment.
SDC began trading publicly on Sept. 12, 2019, according to Forbes.
On May 21, during a Business and Professions Committee hearing on AB 1998, Low opened up his presentation to the members of the committee with a salvo declaring that teledentistry and telehealth are “telecrap.”
“This will disproportionately hurt communities of color; not everyone can go to health-care providers,” Low said. “The reality is that subpar treatment can do real harm, the risk is too high.”
Green says he is standing up for disadvantaged African Americans who can’t afford to just drop into a dentist’s office to get x-rays and clearance before they can purchase dental products they need from companies like SDC.
“Do you want them to tell them they’re not worthy of a good smile? They’re not worthy of confidence, employment opportunities, and so many other benefits, a good smile brings? @Evan_Low,” Green tweeted.
If approved, AB 1998 would make it more difficult to access teledentistry services by requiring an in-person visit to a dentist.
Two days before Green’s Twitter rant, he sent a two-page letter to several California politicians explaining the hardship he experienced trying to get affordable dental care.
In it, the athlete said his mother struggled to pay $7,000 for the metal braces he wore between his eighth and 12th-grade years. He also wrote that he broke his retainers when arrived at Michigan University and couldn’t leave to fix them because of the strict demands of his basketball schedule.
Because of “crooked teeth,” he wrote, smiling wasn’t a gesture of his for many years.
“After 7 years of hiding my smile, I made a decision that I was going to finally fix my teeth again. Only this time I decided that I would try invisible aligners. I came across a tele-dentistry platform with licensed dentists by the name of SmileDirectClub,” Green stated in the letter.
Green told recipients of his letter that the California State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the California Black Chamber of Commerce are all opposed to AB 1998.
In March, California State NAACP President Alice Huffman asked the legislature to knock down any bill that would create an obstacle to affordable dental care.
Huffman said SDC’s teledentistry platform for clear aligner therapy treatments has helped more than 100,000 Californians, including African Americans.
“Now, more than ever, the African American community needs as many options as possible to close the disparity gap for oral health care. African Americans and other people of color have the right to affordable, quality health care treatment,” Huffman said.
In his letter, Green said because Assemblymember Low’s constituents are among the richest Californians, maybe he is unaware how his legislation might hurt poor Californians.
“If there is something I’m missing as to why you would consider adopting a bill that would take away doctor discretion to subject a patient to radiation, that would also limit access and significantly increase the cost of dental care then let’s set up a call to discuss,” he offered. “This is California. We’re supposed to be leading on these issues. Instead, this bill is a step in the wrong direction.”