By Mark Molz
NBA players were once told to “shut up and dribble” and this is something they simply cannot and will not do. They are and will continue to advocate for racial justice and equality through the platform they have rightfully earned.
In a time of uncertainty, a pandemic, and nation wide protesting, the sports world has rebooted and the NBA is at the forefront of fighting for racial justice in America. Faces of the NBA such as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Chris Paul have been effectively using their platform as professional athletes to speak out against police brutality, inequality, and push for social reform in our world today. The NBA, the players, and the coaches are taking this opportunity to encourage people to take a moment, stop, look at the world around them, and fight for what's right.
Players, like LeBron James, have spoken out about the racial injustices in America for countless years and have used their platform to not just “shut up and dribble,” but promote equality, change, and justice where it has been long overdue.
Before the NBA decided to move to the “bubble,” as they call it, to play safely for the rest of the regular and postseason, NBA players gathered in protest across America demanding for change and racial justice. Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and DeMar DeRozan are just a few of the players who were shouting “say her name,” “Black Lives Matter,” and more in the fight for justice in our communities.
The first step the NBA took as they entered the bubble was allowing the players to replace their last names on their jerseys with statements of social justice. The statements included; “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” “Vote,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and more to promote change and use their platform to speak on the racial injustice taking place in America. Although the players are now in their bubble in Orlando, Florida it hasn’t stopped them from supporting and using their platform beyond the statements on the back of their jerseys.
The NBA has had a domino effect for other sport organizations in taking steps in the right direction. In the first round of the Eastern Conference the Milwaukee Bucks protested game 5 by refusing to take the court in the light of the Jacob Blake shooting. Following the Bucks decision to protest, the WNBA postponed 3 games, the MLS postponed 5, and the MLB postponed its remaining games over the next few days. Following their protest the Bucks players released a statement saying, “despite the overwhelming plea for change there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
Following the postponement of the playoffs both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers voted to not finish the season in light of the police brutality and racial injustices that have continued to take place. Although they have now continued the postseason they have continually taken advantage of their global impact by using their post/pregame interviews, social media, and their clothing to advocate for racial justice, and will continue to do so until progress is seen.
The NBA and the players have realized what needs to be done for change to take place and that starts with acts such as protesting. After the protest and postponement of the playoffs the NBA released a statement to convert NBA arenas into in-person polling locations for the up-coming election. Alongside turning arenas to polling locations many NBA players have used this time in the bubble to register to vote themselves, and a handful of teams also plan to give their employees paid time off to vote in local and national elections.
Not only active players are paving a way for change, former NBA player Michael Jordan, with the help of his brand, has pledged to donate $100 million over the next ten years “to organizations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice, and greater education.” The statement also said, “We represent a proud family that has overcome obstacles, fought against discrimination in communities worldwide and that works everyday to erase the stain of racism and the damage of injustice.”
This is a time where the NBA knows complacency is not an option. The players and organizations are representing the active movements that must be taken in order for change to occur. They are motivating others, pushing individuals to take a leap for what's right, and are taking action to pave the way for tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. They are encouraging us to not be afraid, but most importantly encouraging us to inspire ourselves and others.
Lebron said it best in his twitter post, “Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!”