Along with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has been at the forefront of the league’s return-to play-plan at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Roberts helped to facilitate communication between the league and players, which led to a unanimous vote to bring the season back on July 30. Since then, however, a faction of players have spoken out about the ongoing racial injustices in the United States, saying that it would be a distraction to resume the season under these circumstances.
Players including Kyrie Irving, and Los Angeles Lakers teammates Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley, have said they may not make the trip to Orlando, which is something they will not be punished for.
However, Roberts said that play is going to resume either way, and the NBA’s main goal is finding a way to highlight injustice issues while the season is resumed, according to Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
“It’s not a question of play or not play,” Roberts told ESPN. “It’s a question of, does playing again harm a movement that we absolutely, unequivocally embrace? And then whether our play can, in fact, highlight, encourage and enhance this movement. That’s what they’re talking about. They’re not fighting about it; they’re talking about it.”
Based on the conversations happening surrounding the NBA’s return, it seems that players will be an integral part of deciding how these issues are addressed. Since this players’ coalition began, the league and individual teams have worked with players to figure out what can be done.
Bradley had some specific requests regarding hiring more black coaches and general managers, something that absolutely can be improved upon. As of 2016, the NBA was 74.4% comprised of Black athletes. Despite that, there are just eight Black coaches and eight African-American general managers, which is just 26.7%.
The players are also looking for ways that the NBA can discuss these issues while in Orlando, so that the games do not deter people away from the real issues. Sports — in many cases — offer a welcomed distraction to the real world. However, at a time like this, a distraction may put a halt to any progress that is currently happening nationwide.
If the NBA can figure out a way to play the games while making Black Lives Matter causes a top priority, then that is what’s going to happen. Perhaps a coherent plan will convince any players on the fence about playing to join their teams.
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