September 10, 2020
“[explicit] THIS MAN!!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT,” Lakers Star LeBron James said August 26, on Twitter, as his team battled in the first round of the playoffs. His and many others’ outrage stemmed from the shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake by a white police officer on Sunday, August 23rd, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The incident left Blake severely injured and hospitalized. Fans were shocked to see the National Basketball Association, or NBA, boycott games, starting with the Bucks vs. Magic on August 26th. The NBA owners had a meeting to discuss how to resume the NBA playoffs while also helping out in the community.
The players believed that their current demand for social justice was weak and that they needed to rise up and meet the challenge. However, the players could not directly interact with the communities to personally state their case for change while living in the Bubble, an isolation zone for NBA players in Orlando meant to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection.
The players are taking steps in the right direction, leading the charge for social justice in oppressed communities. In an emotional response to the situation, Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers said, “We keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back.” They understand that what is happening needs to change, and that this change is much more important than a few games. “Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and org[anization] shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen,” Bucks Senior VP Alex Lasry said the day of the closure.
The NBA and the NBPA, the National Basketball Player Association, decided to make three commitments after several days of intense discussion. The commitments were to “establish a social justice coalition featuring [representatives] from players, coaches & governors,” to “convert team arenas into voting locations for 2020 general election,” and to “create advertising spots in playoff games that promote civic engagement in local, nation elections.” The NBA and NBPA agreed to continue the playoffs under the conditions aforementioned.
The potential changes these commitments will produce are immense. The owners themselves have decided to take action and act as a voice for the players. Former basketball legend and current Hornets Executive Vice President of Operations Michael Jordan announced a ten-year donation which includes a $100 million pledge to combat black voter suppression. One million dollars of the donation went to the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, while $500,000 went to Black Voters Matter.
“The boycotting shows how athletes in sports are impacted by innocent [casualties],” junior Nathan Alonso said. These athletes are still human, and can be affected by traumatic events.
Even though the vast majority of fans take pride in their NBA idols, many people still have misgivings about the boycott. “I do disagree [with] ending the season because it is in its final stretch, with the playoffs almost halfway done,” junior Trevor Pham said. “The NBA also just put up the Bubble, and they put so much time and effort to make that happen just for the season to get cancelled.”
Although awareness about racism is being spread through protests and social outcry, the horrific tragedy on August 23rd was a definite step backwards, frustrating players and coaches. Through this frustration, they congregated and planned to make a difference. “You’re going to continue to hear us,” NBA Star Chris Paul said to reporters on August 28th. “This isn’t a ‘shut up and dribble’ situation.”