On Friday evening, 80-plus NBA players got together on a conference call to discuss whether they should go along with the league’s plan to resume the 2019-20 season in July. Utah Jazz center Ed Davis was one of the players on that hour-and-45-minute call (and several other calls like it). The 10-year NBA veteran opened up to HoopsHype about the discussion and why he feels the players should play when the season resumes in Orlando.
Players have brought up concerns about COVID-19, the injury risk, the bubble, shifting attention away from the Black Lives Matter movement and so on. Based on your conversations with players, what’s the biggest issue or concern that players have about resuming the season?
Ed Davis: I think you have to look at it from every player’s own perspective. For me, personally, I’m for the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve always been for it. When I was in Portland, me and Moe Harkless would go through the inner cities and really try to get involved in police reform. We’d bring black kids and the police together, trying to help them find some common ground and gain respect for each other. Like I said, I’m all for that. At the same time, I know a lot of guys are iffy about playing. But it’s sort of bigger than that because if we don’t play, I honestly think there’s a chance that we won’t play next year. I just had a 2-month-old so of course I don’t want to go away for two months, but it’s just something I feel that we have to do to save the league and for all the people who came behind us and all the people who are going to come after us. This is coming from a 10-year vet; I’m on the back end of my career and I’ve made enough money, so it’s not really about the money. It’s more about the future guys – a guy like Donovan Mitchell, who is looking at a $160 million dollar contract but he might only get $90 million if the cap drops.
If we don’t play, I honestly think there’s a chance that we won’t play next year
I’m looking at it like: With where we’re at as a Black culture and how we’re so far behind when it comes to black people and the wealth we have, the money we have, us missing the rest of this season (and possibly next year), we’re talking about billions and billions of dollars for the black community because a lot of guys in the NBA are black men from the inner cities and things like that. So, the way I look at it, we have to play for that simple fact. I saw Stephen Jackson say that we can’t play because it’s going to be a distraction. Yeah, it’s going to be a distraction, but we can take that money – those billions and billions of dollars – that we’re going to make and pour it back in the community. You can look at it like that – that us losing out on that money would hurt generations of people.
For me, I make $5 million a year and I’m taking a 25-percent pay cut [due to COVID-19], so I’m losing around $30,000 every two weeks. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s what is creating generational wealth and that’s what is really going to help the black community. I don’t know if guys are looking at it like that. But that’s just my perspective and the reason why I think we need to play. I get it, we need to take a stand; we got to do this, we got to do that. But you got to have money to do some of these things and make some of these things happen. [Change] isn’t just gonna happen because of us boycotting and not playing and shutting it down. And then, we’re really gonna be set back.
If the season resumes, the whole world would be watching. You can make the argument that playing would provide players with a huge platform to make their voices heard and highlight this movement.
ED: Yeah, exactly. I mean, this is really the only time that you’re going to get that and it’s the only time you’re going to get 22 teams together for seven weeks, so we can really get down and meet every couple of weeks and do some really cool things. There’s some really great stuff that we can do for the world. I feel like all of us doing it together and working with the NBA and working with these owners, we can really help out. For me, I want to fight against police brutality. That’s my cause; that’s really what I want to focus on. I hope that when we get down there, we can do that together. So, like I said, I’m all for us playing and I feel like we need to play. I think a lot of these guys know really need to educate themselves on what’s really going to happen if we do take a stand and don’t play.
It’s easy for a guy like Kyrie [Irving] to say that he’ll give everything back [for social reform], but would he really give everything back? It’s easy for Dwight Howard to say that we don’t need to play when he’s in Atlanta in his $20 million mansion. But there are other guys on the rosters who need this money to provide for whoever they’re taking care of and things like that. It’s easy for the superstars in the league to say this and how they feel about this and that. But it means a lot more when it comes from the role players and the guys that [aren’t stars]. There are so many different perspectives because there are so many different levels in the NBA. Like I said, it’s so easy for the superstars to say, “Let’s just not play,” and they’re good. But some guys can’t just do that. There are lives on the line and, like I said, generational wealth on the line. These are the hits that we’re going to take if we don’t play.
It’s easy for a guy like Kyrie to say that he’ll give everything back, but would he really give everything back?
How many players participated in Friday’s call?
ED: It was 80-something. I don’t know exactly how many, but it was in the 80s, for sure. It was a lot of players.
I think some people saw that 80 players were on the call and thought, “Wow, 80 players want to sit out.” But based on what you’re saying, it sounds like some players on the call absolutely want to play and just wanted to hear what the others had to say. Is that accurate?
ED: Yeah, for sure. There were 80 guys on the call and maybe 10 who spoke, and of the guys who spoke, it was probably 50/50 – only half said that we might need to take a stand and that playing might not be the best idea. I can only speak for myself and the guys that I communicate with – and I communicate with a lot of guys in the NBA – but I think they are on board to play. Obviously, it’s a tough situation; we’re in a pandemic. But this is when we really have to stick together and really use our platform and really make a difference. I think that we have so many resources through the NBA and working with the NBA, that’s how we’re gonna make things happen. Taking a stand and not playing, I just don’t think that’s going to better the situation. I guess it might be a little distraction, but it’s on us to turn that distraction into a positive thing.
As you mentioned, if the players sit out, we may not have basketball next season either. The owners could rip up the CBA and then we’d have a lockout. It’s possible that the new CBA wouldn’t be as player-friendly. Do the players who want to sit out understand the financial consequences that could come with not playing?
ED: Yeah, I think a lot of guys understand that. But, like I said, sometimes the guys that are speaking up, those are the guys that [are set] financially. They can say certain things because they made so much money in their career that they can miss a year. They might be on the back end of their career. Like, with me, I’m on the back end of my career and if I don’t play another game or make another dollar, I’m still gonna be fine. But I just know what this is going to do to the future. And it’s more for the guys that came before us and put in so much work and it took so much to get to this point. To throw that down drain because of a quick, emotional decision? I just don’t think that’s a smart thing to do at all.
Sometimes the guys that are speaking up, those are the guys that are set financially
I’m with the movement and with every cause. I even thought about this: We, the players in the NBA, could take a percent of the BRI (Basketball Related Income) and give that back to the community. There are things like that we could do and there are too many powerful people in the NBA – with the owners and the players working with Commissioner [Adam] Silver – that if we take a stand and don’t play, we’re not going to benefit from that. We’re going to lose all the way around. It’s just not going to be good. You don’t have enough players who are willing to do that, and I don’t feel like it’s right for a player to force other guys to do that. It’s your decision. If you want to take a stand, take a stand; if not, it’s your choice. But to try to make a whole group do something? Nah, I ain’t really with that.
You said that there have been a number of calls about resuming the season in addition to Friday’s conference call. How many calls have there been and what have those discussions been like?
ED: There have been a lot of calls; I don’t know off the top of my head. Obviously, the guys who are on the Union’s Board of NBA Player Representatives have been on even more calls, but I’ve been on a lot. The Players’ Association has been doing a hell of a job of letting us know what’s going on and answering our questions. The Utah Jazz had a two-hour Zoom call with Michele [Roberts] and the Players’ Association, so if guys had any questions or concerns, we had an opportunity to ask them. It’s up to the players to get on these calls and ask these questions, and the Players’ Association has been available to us in every way possible.
One player told me that some quotes from Friday’s call were taken out of context, and I saw that Donovan Mitchell seemed to take issue with a tweet saying that he talked about sitting out. Have the reports about the call been accurate?
ED: Yeah, a lot of them have been accurate, but they’re just taking certain quotes and certain things. So, they’re getting real information, but they’re not getting the whole story; they’re just getting bits and pieces of it. When a quote comes out, you can spin it however you want in your head. The quotes are accurate – because I have been on the calls – but there’s more stuff that’s being said before and after that the general public isn’t seeing.
Do you guys have another call scheduled or are you planning to have a conversation with the NBA? What are the next steps?
ED: I mean, I don’t know exactly. I’m not on the Board [of NBA Player Representatives] with the Players’ Association, but, like I said, I’m on every call. I got a lot of respect for Chris Paul; I think he’s doing things right. And with CP and Michele working with Adam Silver, I really think that we can do some positive things for the community. But it’s gonna take all of us to do it together. Us taking a stand and not playing, that’s not the answer. There’s too much money that would be lost that can really help a lot of people and feed people who are in these poverty-stricken places and crazy environments. We can take that money and do some great things with it. This is my opinion, but I just don’t think us protesting is the right answer.
Based on the conversations you’ve had with players, do you think the season will resume in July?
ED: Yeah, I’m about 99.9 percent sure that we’ll finish the season. I know a couple guys from the Jazz have concerns, but in our group chat when we talk, everybody’s on board and we’re ready to play. We’re hoping that we can start doing contact stuff soon, so the team I play on, we’re ready to go. I don’t know how it is for some of these other teams. But I’ve played with so many different guys in the NBA and I talk to so many different guys and, for the most part, guys want to play. Obviously, you got some guys that, for different reasons, might not want to play. For some guys, there’s a lot on the line. You got some guys who are in a contract year. If I’m Jordan Clarkson or Donovan [Mitchell], I might not want to play, just for the simple fact that I had a good year and I’m looking for a contract extension, so why would I risk getting hurt? But, at the same time, the reason why we’re in this situation is because we’re in a pandemic. This sh** doesn’t happen often, and that’s life. It could be worse. It could always be worse. But sh** happens in life. You just got to put your hard hat on and get to work.
I’m about 99.9 percent sure that we’ll finish the season
But I do think if we play and go to Orlando, we can sit down with Commissioner Silver and figure out something that we really can do so that these people who are getting murdered on camera can get the justice that they deserve. That’s where all of this started and, like I said, I’m all for it. I’ve been going to the prisons in Richmond for years. I do it all the time – any chance I get in the summer – going in, talking to people, trying to help, trying to bridge that gap. So, I’m all on board. If there’s something that anybody in the NBA wants to do, I’ll support it. But not playing definitely isn’t the right answer; I know that for a fact. That’s how I feel about the whole situation. We’re in crazy times; we’re in a pandemic and black guys are being murdered on camera. And then [the cops] are going home on paid leave, which is not right. That definitely has to change, and this change is not going to happen over a week, over a month or over a year. This is going to take decades. It’s going to take the people who are in their 20s and raising kids to stop the hatred and stop the racism. That’s what it’s going to take. So, I’m not with the quick fixes or emotional decisions; they never really work out well. When you have a plan and find a solution, that’s when you get the most success and that’s when good things happen. I think with CP, Michele and Adam Silver, they’re gonna do that. Because, in my eyes, they’re always doing great work – especially CP. With what he’s dealing with – all of these superstars in his ear, Adam Silver and Michele in his ear and he has his own thoughts on everything – I got a lot of respect for him and I think he’s doing a hell of a job leading us.
You mentioned that this is going to take a long time. I noticed that the final sentence of Dwight Howard’s statement said, “No basketball till we get things resolved.” While I think he has good intentions, I don’t think he realizes what it’s going to take to change this. It’s not as if sitting out the season will suddenly fix all of these things and change the system.
ED: Right. Just because the cop that killed George Floyd may get locked up or even get the death penalty, that doesn’t fix a racist cop in, you know, Mobile, AL. There are so many steps that it’s going to take. But us players getting all of this attention in all these countries [could be good] for the movement. And I’m all for coming back and having everyone take a small percentage of their pay and put it in a fund that goes to the movement. It can be used to help fight police brutality and things like that. That’s where my mind is at. I don’t think sitting out for a year is going to fix it because it’s a broken system. We’re dealing with racist cops and cops that are not really qualified; we’re dealing with cops that have 10 different complaints against them yet they still have jobs. That’s not right! So, yeah, it’s going to take time and it’s going to take a lot of people. I feel like the NBA [can help]. When the NBA shut down, pretty much the whole world shut down. Now, we’re getting back and there are so many things that we can do if we all work together and put all of these minds and all these resources together. Because with the NBA, it’s unlimited, man. Hopefully we can make changes and 20 years from now, we’re looking back like, “Damn, the NBA changed everything, starting with Stephen Jackson and George Floyd (R.I.P.).