Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and as such several prominent NBA folks took a recent visit to the National Civil Rights Museum located at the former site of the Lorraine Hotel — the building where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
The league is active around the national holiday, and most teams have already been wearing their MLK Day shirts and custom sneakers in recent games. Both Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts (along with several players) were in Memphis — the location of the Lorraine Hotel — for the 50th anniversary of his death.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump was allegedly overheard at a meeting this past week calling Haiti and some African countries “shitholes”. That didn’t sit right with folks in the NBA, including Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, a native of Nigeria. Ujiri took the time to respond this week, standing up for the places Trump referred to with his alleged comment.
Silver also took the time to address Trump’s remark Sunday in Memphis, telling ESPN that he felt they were, “An impetus to continue pushing forward.”
“I think for both Michele and me, it is a reminder and an impetus to continue pushing forward with the kind of things that we can do together as a league,” Silver said after touring the museum with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts at the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated. “Sports continue to be a unique opportunity to unite people and it is a place where there is a rare sense of equality. Certainly we are proud that within the NBA you are judged by your performance on the floor, regardless of your background, nationality or ethnicity. … To me, it is also reinforcement of how important it is that we stay the course in terms of the programs that this league has been operating for decades and new programs like NBA Voices that we are beginning this week.”
“I tend to be an optimist,” Silver also said. “Certainly as I am reminded of the history of this country, much of it which took place during my lifetime, there has been tremendous progress, there is no question about it. Having said that, we have a long way to go.”
The visit to Memphis also coincides with the launch of an NBA initiative called NBA Voices which the association says is to, “Address social injustice, promote inclusion, uplift voices and bridge divides in our communities.”
ESPN reports that NBA teams, players, and league offices organized or participated in 222 programs, events and initiatives related to social change across 26 cities through Dec. 8, 2017.
Monday’s slate of games in the NBA spans 11 games from 9:30 AM PST to 7:30 PM PST.