People across the globe have shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement and sports leagues everywhere have taken steps to show solidarity and protest against racism in our world. But for me, there’s one league that has led the way.
NBA players have never been shy of using their platform and their voices to push important messages concerning equality. This year, even locked away in the covid-secure NBA Orlando bubble, they made sure they were heard.
Before the bubble commenced in Disney World Florida, there was global outrage after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota Police. The NBA gave players permission to wear social justice slogans on the backs of their jerseys when play in Orlando began. Teams took to the floor with phrases like “Say their names”, “Justice”, “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” to name only four.
Along with the jerseys, the basketball courts displayed the NBA logo and just three words in big bold letters: “Black Lives Matter”. When the national anthem was played, it was common to see players kneeling. The NBA was showing the world, right on their TV screens and broadcast to millions, that there needs to be change.
Then came the horrific shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee Bucks, also from Wisconsin, were the NBA’s best team. Star player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was on the verge of winning his second straight MVP award. Stuck in the bubble, they couldn’t protest side-by-side with everyone else. So they decided not to play.
This was not a pre-planned move from the Bucks. All the players had arrived at the arena to play in their NBA Playoffs first-round game with the Orlando Magic. They decided, without telling NBA executives, their coaches, or their opponents to boycott the game. The Magic actually took to the court and waited for the Bucks, unaware of the behind-the-scenes discussion that had taken place.
The game wasn’t played. In the end, all NBA games due to take place at that point were postponed. Some people expected players to “shut up and play”. But players decided that if people won’t listen, they won’t play.
A massive, global brand showed everyone that they stood with Black Lives Matter. It makes me so so proud, as a basketball fan, that my sport is speaking up in the fight for equality. However, the fight isn’t over yet and NBA teams are opening their arenas as voting venues in the upcoming US election, and owners have agreed to support and donate to programmes fighting for what’s fair. The fight isn’t over, but basketball is prepared to go to war.