The Los Angeles Lakers’ pursuit of their 17th NBA championship is back on as the league will be resuming play in Orlando on July 30 after more than three months off due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
There are still some details that need to be sorted out, as a players’ coalition has raised some valid concerns both about health and safety and the social climate of the country.
While it seems the safety concerns have been alleviated a bit with the league releasing guidelines on how the Orlando “bubble” will work, the players still have some decisions to make as far as the social justice and Black Lives Matter movement.
Led by Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, as well as Lakers teammates Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard, the players have questioned whether resuming the season will take away from the country’s goal of ending racial injustice. Some, on the other hand, feel that playing the season will allow players to let their voices be heard by drawing more attention to the cause.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson falls into the latter part as in a virtual roundtable with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts and Caron Butler, he said resuming the season is the best way to draw attention to Black Lives Matter:
“Going back to play basketball is not going to stop the protest. I think it can even give it some more juice because of the big platform that the players have in the NBA. And then Adam, you pointed out that the 1.8 billion followers the league has. Caron, I think the guys have to understand that this is a chance for them to sit down together and bring about change and how they can do that as a group. They can do it as an individual in their own cities and states that they play in or live in. But also too, they can together and say, ‘Let’s support this group or let’s do this together or let’s create this together.’ Black Lives Matter will continue. The protesters will continue with the NBA playing. It’s not going to stop.
“And then when the guys are there, let’s get together, huddle up, let’s plan something really strong so when we’re done, Adam, the players, Michele Roberts, everybody can stand there and say, ‘Hey, this is what we decided to do and it’s going to bring real change in the inner cities, in urban America, where we live, where we play. This is going to bring some real change.’ That’s what I would love to see happen.”
Johnson has been heavily involved in a number of social initiatives throughout the course of his career, never afraid to speak up about something he is passionate about. His opinion is one of the most respected in the league, so although he wouldn’t be going to Orlando to play, the players are likely listening to what he has to say on the matter.
Bradley, in particular, has been vocal in recent days about wanting the NBA to use this opportunity to inspire change such as more coaching and front office opportunities for people of color. Hopefully, the league and the players can come together on this and figure out the best course of action moving forward.
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