While protests around America continued, NBA players cut everything short to enter the league’s Orlando bubble to finish the season and to protect them from the coronavirus. Players have tried to use their voices, some visually by kneeling for the national anthem, wearing printed slogans on their shirts and jerseys, and some that displayed other gestures of support. While they all had good intentions with the restart, Kyrie Irving, an injured player for the Brooklyn Nets, warned the league that the restart would turn the spotlight away from what matters most, and he was correct. Irving deserves credit for being able to forecast the NBA’s fate because now he looks like a genius.
However, the entire NBA deserves credit, too. Chris Paul, president of the Players Association, Adam Silver and NBA owners have worked tirelessly to be the most proactive professional sports league in the country. They’ve done all they could to appease their players and their fans by keeping the league going and keeping it just as entertaining as it was before March 11, while still attacking social justice issues head-on.
Rewind to almost a half-year ago when the coronavirus outbreak first started in America. Who was the first league to take action? The NBA. Who was the most communicative through the whole process after that? The NBA. In a world of uncertainty, there was maybe a month in which we weren’t sure what would happen with the NBA. Then after that month, who was the first league to come up with a plan to restart their season with a completely alternative model than they’re used to? The NBA.
Not only was the NBA the first to shut down their operations and restart them with no significant flaws, but they were also the first that were brave…or sympathetic enough to address the racial injustices going on in America. That speaks to how player-driven the organization is.
So, knowing how progressive the NBA is, how open the league’s commissioner is, and how player-driven it is, what’s next? This league embodies leadership, and when we see leadership in sports, it often begins with the NBA. As of Wednesday afternoon, the players are on strike from playing in their playoff games. The Milwaukee Bucks led the way, then the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, the entire NBA decided to cancel games scheduled for the day.
The NBA strike has expectedly sparked up a ton of conversation for the players and fans, both positive and negative. People that have commented negatively about the NBA’s halitus are directing their anger in the wrong direction, especially considering the country’s current state. The NBA isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, and the players know that.
However, the NBA, and sports, in general, serve as a getaway from the constant trauma that Black people deal with each day. So they’re proving a point to one group of people and depriving another group of people. It’s the sacrifice of change, but change has to take place.
The Bucks, the initiators of the NBA’s strike, spoke to the Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes in the wake of Jacob Blake getting shot seven times in his back by Kenosha, WI police. Kenosha is south of Milwaukee.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
They added: “When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.”
During the meeting on Wednesday evening, the Thunder’s Chris Paul announced that he got the entire Thunder team registered to vote in the upcoming election in November.
In a vote between the teams to finish the rest of the season, the two most-popular championship-contending teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, were the only two that opted out of playing the rest of the playoffs. Both teams from L.A. deciding to sacrifice the remainder of the season for this is the most surprising, yet impactful decision made today, because of all the championship aspirations they have.
The most impactful chess move for the NBA would be for its players to put a never before seen amount of pressure on the billionaire owners of these franchises to do more than merely ‘stand behind’ the players that make them this money. Black 19-35-year-old athletes won’t be able to reach and change the actions of the state’s or the nation’s leaders. However, the white middle-aged, to older billionaire owners who share the same circle as many of these lawmakers and people in power, can help reach new heights when it comes to carrying out change. That’s the Queen chess piece in this whole thing.
While the league is on the brink of another groundbreaking decision, they’ve already proven that they’re the voice of professional sports. The NBA’s decision will dictate what the MLB does, and although the NFL lacks progressiveness, it’s players will notice how much power the NBA’s players have, and start pushing commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand themselves.
Bold move, NBA. Let’s make it worthwhile.