There was a group of players — led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley — who questioned if the NBA restart in Orlando would take the spotlight away and slow the momentum of the Black Lives Matter and social justice movements. It’s a legitimately difficult question to answer.
Players struggled with that topic and discussed it amongst themselves. While most will still be going to Orlando for the restart, saying they want to use the league’s platform to spread the social justice message, the decision wasn’t come to lightly.
“It sucks. It sucks, man. It’s terrible timing. But that’s been 2020 for us,” VanVleet said. “We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense. But life goes on. We’re all young, Black guys. None of us want to give any money (from their salaries) back. I don’t think that we should. I think that money can be used in a number of different ways. This is not going to end this summer regardless, or over the next couple of months. This issue, racial injustice, social injustice, police brutality, all these things are not ending anytime soon. Our fight is long term. That was part of my decision. But if the league, or more of my guys would have come together and said we didn’t want to play, I would have sat out as well. I wouldn’t have even fought it. I think most of us decided to play. It’s something we’ll have to live with. I trust that my heart’s in the right place and I’m doing enough to make change.”
That sums up well what other players have said off the record. There was legitimate debate among players about whether using the league’s platform in Orlando to promote social justice or not playing was the right cause. However, when the financial factors were thrown in, players felt they had to go.
As with many decisions the coronavirus has forced upon people, there are no easy answers. NBA players have made their decision, but Fred VanVleet’s words express the conflicted sentiments of many players on this issue.