The NBA Takes a Stand

The NBA is taking steps to fight racial discrimination. In response to recent violence from the police, playoff teams have decided to boycott their games.

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By Eleanor Chin

As a part of a league where 81.1 percent of its players are Black, members of the NBA, players and coaches alike, are alarmed by the current state of America’s race politics. The NBA, however, is standing up to the racial discrimination that has plagued this nation for far too long—and in a bold way.

Since the NBA resumed its season at Disneyland in Orlando, Florida, players have been using their wide-reaching platforms to amplify calls against racial injustice. For the first time, players were given the option to put messages such as “Equality,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” and “How Many More” above the numbers on the back of their jerseys. Around the half-court line, giant text also displays the message “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Of the 350 players in the bubble, 300 decided to add these simple, yet meaningful phrases to their jerseys, sending a powerful message to audiences watching everywhere. Around 4.1 million viewers tuned in on July 30 to watch the marquee matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. The millions of fans who watched the intense game saw the words “Liberation” on the back of Clippers guard Reggie Jackson’s jersey as he dunked over Lakers guard Dion Waiters and “Black Lives Matter” every time Lakers guard Alex Caruso drove to the basket.

Their efforts to bring awareness to the racial injustice, however, didn’t just end on the basketball court. Rather than reflecting on their gameplay during post-game interviews as is the norm, many players, like Sixers forward Tobias Harris, Lakers center Dwight Howard, and Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, have turned their attention to the murder of Breonna Taylor, expressing their deep frustration toward the fact that the officers who committed the horrible crime have yet to face their punishment.

Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was trying to break up a domestic dispute in his neighborhood, was shot seven times at point-blank rage by an officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23. Members of the NBA were very vocal about Blake’s uncalled-for shooting, taking to social media and news outlets to express their anger and concerns. “We are scared as Black people in America. Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified," said Lakers guard LeBron James, an NBA alltime great who has been extremely active in bringing awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since James spoke out, each NBA team in the playoffs has followed in his footsteps to take an ultimate stand against Blake’s shooting. For example, players from the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics spoke about possibly boycotting their Game 1 Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Shortly after, the Milwaukee Bucks, a team based in Wisconsin, announced that they would refuse to take the floor on Wednesday, August 26 for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. The NBA subsequently postponed all three games set to occur that day (Bucks versus Magic, Houston Rockets versus Oklahoma City Thunder, and Lakers versus Portland Trail Blazers) and organized a Zoom meeting with all players to discuss how it will proceed with the boycotts. In fact, according to ESPN senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is reconsidering whether or not the season should continue, a testament to how deeply the association has been shaken by the recent events.

In a country where racial injustice has hurt far too many people for far too long, members of the NBA are using their platform to fight for what’s right, and in doing so, they send an extremely powerful message: enough is enough.