Lakers center Dwight Howard released a powerful statement that said “Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction” and “No Basketball till we get things resolved.”
Howard’s agent, Charles Briscoe, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“The statement was about social injustice and racism,” Briscoe said. “Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be. He’s just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what’s going on in the country to talk about basketball. Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what’s going on with people dying in the streets, that’s something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice.”
I have a tough time reconciling Howard (“No Basketball till we get things resolved”) and Howard’s agent (“He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be”). Obviously, the problems of social injustice and racism are not resolved.
Lakers star LeBron James has made clear: He believes he can continue playing while advancing social change. LeBron holds incredible influence in how the Lakers operate. It can be difficult for anyone in the organization to oppose him.
LeBron isn’t alone in his sentiments. Other players have espoused the value of continuing to earn high wages, both because it can increase black wealth and because not playing wouldn’t necessarily advance the cause of combating racism.
In fact, professional athletes have used their platforms to advance the cause. Colin Kaepernick made the strongest stand in recent years. NBA players have also contributed by doing things like wearing shirts in protest of police brutality during pregame, calling attention to segregation and forming an organization to grow and protect black voting rights. Those words and actions were amplified by the spotlight on active NBA players and the money they earn.
Could NBA players do even more for the cause by not playing? Maybe.
But that even Howard and his agent sound unaligned shows that side of the debate needs work on its message.