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To help or to hinder

Basketball

The NBA’s highly anticipated return-to-play might not happen after all...and for good reason. Players are speaking out about their reservations over bringing their sport back while the fight for social justice continues.

June 15, 2020
DUANE BURLESON/AP
DUANE BURLESON/AP

The GIST: The NBA’s highly anticipated return-to-play might not happen after all...and for good reason. Players are speaking out about their reservations over bringing their sport back while the fight for social justice continues.

Who’s speaking up?: On a Friday night conference call with around 100 players, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving led the charge, saying that it would be detrimental to the Black Lives Matter movement if the NBA returned. Irving called out systemic racism in America and urged his fellow players to sit out.

  • Many players publicly agreed with Irving, including Portland Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony, LA Clipper Lou Williams and LA Laker Dwight Howard, with Williams and Howard calling sports an unnecessary “distraction” right now.
     
  • Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who was a close friend of George Floyd, said that basketball will “take all the attention off the task at hand right now and what we're fighting for.”

Is this a consensus?: Not totally. Other players have since come out to say that restarting the NBA season would only help the movement. Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers (son of Clippers coach Doc Rivers) made a case for the restart, saying “we can do both.”

  • Rivers suggested that players use the money they’ll make to help the cause and use their platforms to elevate the movement (think things like kneeling during the national anthem and wearing the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts).

So what happens now?: Although the NBA hasn’t released anything official, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said that they understand the players' concerns and are working with the players association. Given the amount of pressure they’re facing from players, we expect the NBA will have something more official soon.

  • Due to the pandemic, NBA players were forced to stop playing the sport they love and make their livelihoods from. Now they’re actively choosing to sit out. They wouldn’t do that unless they had a damn good reason.
     
  • And this is one. We miss sports as much as anyone, but if putting off the season means avoiding disrupting the momentum of the movement, we’re here for it.