Several players worried the NBA restart would be an unnecessary distraction from the push for social justice before games resumed at the end of July. The issue resurfaced earlier this week following the shooting of Jacob Blake, bringing the Orlando bubble experiment close to a premature end.
During an emotional players meeting on Wednesday night, a number of teams — including the Los Angeles Lakers — reportedly opposed the resumption of the playoffs, claiming NBA stars should focus on supporting the fight against racism and police brutality outside of the bubble.
Talks continued overnight and following a conversation with former U.S. President Barack Obama and Michael Jordan’s intervention, teams unanimously voted to continue the postseason on Thursday.
But before reaching an agreement with league officials, players wanted to ensure they could make an impact from within the bubble and inspire meaningful changes. Lakers All-Star LeBron James was said to seek reassurances from team owners they would be more dedicated to advancing the cause.
And Anthony Davis has expressed confidence the owners will keep their word, emphasizing the upper hand the players have in ensuring the league’s operation is uninterrupted. “We do have the leverage,” he said.
“After the meeting, we’re very confident that they will. The conversations went well. If they don’t, then we won’t play again. It’s simple as that. They were very powerful and impactful meetings, and I think the owners will (keep their word).”
Team owners pledged to contribute $300 million over the next 10 years to support the Black community shortly after the NBA restart’s tip-off in Orlando. But some players have expressed skepticism over the commitment’s sufficiency.
NBA promises to aid social actions
Before the NBA and the players agreed to resume the playoffs on Thursday, both sides agreed on mutual actions they will take to aid the push for social justice.
The NBA and the Board of Governors committed to forming a new social justice coalition, consisting of players, coaches, and governors, aiming to bring equity to Black communities in the U.S.
Among other promises are creating more voting locations for vulnerable communities — by converting more sports arenas if possible — ahead of the presidential election in November, and making specific calls to action through advertisements during the rest of the season.
The Lakers have announced Staples Center will serve as a polling center in November.
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