Tune into an English Premier League game this weekend and you will see the kits/jerseys say “Black Lives Matter” across the back, where the players’ name traditionally would be. Also, all the players on both teams take a knee before kick-off. It has been a fantastic tribute to the cause from across the ocean.
Could NBA jerseys have “Black Lives Matter” on them somewhere when play resumes in Orlando next month? What about having BLM on the court somewhere?
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams asked those questions when he appeared on CoStar Friday, in response to a question about what NBA players will do to keep social justice causes it in the spotlight. Williams sounded like a guy who thought going to Orlando would prove a distraction from more important issues (hat tip Los Angeles Times).
“We’re trying to find that balance where if we do suit up we’re having conversations behind closed doors. If we do suit up, how much of this platform can we really use? Can we get a ‘Black Lives Matter’ patch on our jerseys? Can our jerseys say ‘Black Lives Matter’? Can the court say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ so we can use that platform to the best of our abilities? So it’s just hard to call, bro. it’s honestly, it’s hard to call. I’m 50-50 right now, to be honest with you…
“I think for us, the only benefit of us not playing is to keep the focus on the fight. And with that being said, this is in six weeks, so we don’t know what it looks like in six weeks. In six weeks the world may need some healing, they may need us to be on the floor. But if more Black kids or more Black adults or any adults that’s dealing with police brutality are getting killed and we’re still outraged, I don’t know if it’s in our best interests to suit up because it looks like we don’t care. You know what I mean? It’s just a fine balance we’re trying to create.”
Adam Silver and the NBA are negotiating with players’ union on exactly what a return will look like and part of that is how the league and players can use that platform to promote the social justice cause that matters so much to the players.
Williams, just like every other player in the league, has an intensely personal decision coming up that has to balance not just BLM and social justice issues, but also family, health risks, and the serious financial risks the players make by choosing not to play. The answer is not the same for everyone, and obviously Williams has not decided.
If he didn’t come to Orlando it would be a blow to the Clippers and their depth. One of the things that makes the team a title threat is that beyond Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (now both healthy and rested) is they roll out serious depth and versatility, including bringing Williams and Montrezl Harrell off the bench. If Williams chooses to stay home, it’s one fewer weapon Doc Rivers has to use when needed.
And Rivers would be the first to say that is fine, that Williams has to do what he sees as right.
What players chose not to go to Orlando could end up having a massive impact on who is a favorite once there.