Lakers center Dwight Howard, saying he agrees with Nets star Kyrie Irving, released a statement about fighting social injustice and racism. Irving’s coalition, which also includes Lakers guard Avery Bradley, released another statement that made no direct mention of the NBA and said: “We are combating the issues that matter most: We will not accept the racial injustices that continue to be ignored in our communities. We will not be kept in the dark when it comes to our health and well-being. And we will not ignore the financial motivations/expectations that have prevented us historically from making sound decisions.”
Now, Bradley is detailing objectives specifically targeting the NBA and addressing the movement for players to sit out the league’s restart at Disney World.
Bradley and the players’ coalition described several priorities Tuesday to ESPN, including improved hiring practices for black front office and head coaching candidates — making it so the league’s management ranks better reflect its composition of players, donations to organizations serving black communities, and partnerships with black-owned businesses and arena vendors.
“Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn’t enough,” Bradley told ESPN. “Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?
“We don’t need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put in to the works.”
“I agree (the) Orlando (restart) will give the players checks to contribute back into their communities,” Bradley said. “But how much of that bubble check are players actually able to contribute? Why (is) all of the responsibility being put on the players?”
“Don’t put all of the weight on your player to take care of the issue,” Bradley said.
Bradley is absolutely correct: There is an unfairly accepted sentiment that it’s on black people to fix racism. It is not.
That’s a reason I have been skeptical of the coalition’s plan to sit out the rest of the season, which would cost players (who are predominantly black) SIGNIFICANTLY financially and not clearly lead to more racial justice.
But if the targeted reforms are within the NBA itself? Players boycotting NBA games becomes more logical.
If the NBA were truly a meritocracy, there would probably be more black general managers and more black coaches. The NBA should change how it contextualizes its own importance, especially when the Black Live Matter movement is dominating the national conversation. There are gains to be made here.
Even with more idealistic notions, many players believe they can affect social justice while playing.
That’s where I think Bradley sells short the progress made – including by professional athletes – the last few years
People are aware racism exists. I don’t think people are aware enough of all the specific ways racism manifests.
By kneeling during the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick forced a conversation on racism and police brutality. By wearing “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirts, NBA players called attention to the death of Eric Garner – and, by extension, the overcriminalization of mundane activities, which disproportionately harms black people.
Did everyone get the picture? No. Of course not. We can all do more to learn about how our world operates and confront the problems.
But these were meaningful steps. In fact, they contributed to the heightened sensitivity of racism and police misconduct that fueled the current moment of protest. Already, protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death have led to laws and policies being changed. Hopefully, that continues.
I appreciate Bradley, Irving and Howard exploring how they can do more. I hope they succeed. These are admirable goals.
I’m also not sure, with the NBA’s return around the corner and proven success of using their platform to affect change, many players will take the radical step of sitting out.