NBA Rumor: Social Justice Messages

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Sam Amick: Protesters advocating for justice for 22-year-old Salaythis Melvin, who was fatally shot by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy last month, stood in front of our shuttle bus for 10 minutes or so before subsiding as we re-entered the bubble. One sign: “LeBron. Stand With Us.”

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The Bucks soon closed out their first-round series before meeting the Heat – a formidable opponent that ran out to a 3-1 lead. After spraining his ankle in Game 3, Antetokounmpo aggravated the injury early in Game 4. Without him, his teammates plowed to a 118-115 overtime win to extend the series to a fifth game. But it was a temporary reprieve for a tired and injured team, one that had also committed itself to addressing problems that the players felt were of greater importance. “Obviously, it’s hard to balance those two,” Antetokounmpo said, adding: “We chose as a team to do both. Is it harder to do both? Yes, it’s harder to do both. But that’s what we chose as a team, to stand up for something that’s bigger than basketball, to stand up for something that we believe, and at the same time play basketball. But it’s not easy.”

Garrett Temple saw the benefits of the social justice messages the players have been able to deliver during the bubble, both in getting together like-minded players to push issues and also influences young viewers. “I had no idea the Morris twins are into education reform, nor Kent Bazemore or CJ McCollum,” Temple said. “It’s very big that people are wearing those messages on their jerseys. When people are watching games for the first time, or young kids are watching for the first time to be able to see that Chris Paul believes in equality.

The NBA’s Board of Governors announced they will give $300 million ($30M a year for the next 10 years) to the newly-created NBA Foundation, which is “dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.” Miami Heat swingman Andre Iguodala, who is also the vice president of the NBA players union, looks at that gesture differently. “You just can’t be checking a box. Is it a marketing ploy or are we just doing it to build relations? In the grand scheme of things, that’s $10 million per team and that’s essentially a tax,” Iguodala told USA TODAY Sports as part of a wide-ranging interview. “This can’t be a one-time thing. You look at these larger brands and how much money they make from the community. They give back, but they’re bringing in a few billion a year.”

Let’s get into that dialog. Mark Cuban: White folks don’t like to speak about race. It’s uncomfortable for a white individual to say the time period “white race” or “white people,” as a result of there’s a right away affiliation with white supremacists. And while you use the time period “white privilege,” folks get defensive. “I can’t be a racist.” We attempt to say, “I see everybody the same,” however I realized once we went via our sexual-harassment problem that treating all people the identical isn’t the identical as treating all people equally. I used to assume that if I advised a silly joke to David, I might inform a silly joke to Sue and I might inform a silly joke to an African-American as a result of I didn’t assume that it was racist, and if I’m colorblind, I can’t be a part of the issue.

Mark Cuban: George Floyd’s loss of life, it modified me. It actually did — listening to our African-American gamers discuss private experiences and seeing the ubiquity of all of it. Like, after Trayvon Martin’s loss of life, I talked about strolling down the road and the way I might cross to the opposite facet if I noticed a black child with a hoodie or a white bald man with tattoos coming towards me. That was my method of claiming: “I don’t see color. I try to evaluate each person individually, but I have prejudices that all people have.” I received’t say that anymore. Colorblind isn’t the best way to be. You’ve bought to acknowledge the variations. When folks discuss Black Lives Matter, they’re not saying white lives don’t matter; they’re saying that black folks and completely different ethnicities have been mistreated. And while you see any individual who’s mistreated, you assist them. That’s what I got here to comprehend.

Sure, there was money to be made for network partners but there also was the potential for something powerful to emerge for what they believed was a necessary distraction at this time. “Our league has a long history of addressing racial and social issues,” said Tatum, who is Black. “You go back to Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, and the lineage from those guys today, to LeBron (James). A guy like Malcolm Brogdon. A guy like Jaylen Brown. We have a responsibility and an obligation, given the prominence of our players and the influence that they have. We’ve always encouraged our players to take a stand on issues that are important to them and they are doing it.”

Brad Townsend: Doc Rivers reacts to President Trump’s statement today that he won’t watch NBA games due to players and coaches kneeling during the national anthem. In short, “So, what? We lost one.” … “We know that justice is on our side, right? And this hat that I’m wearing -VOTE- is what our President is trying to get us to not do.” pic.twitter.com/MHraMhWy3S

Donovan Mitchell: I think working with Adidas, we were able to do that, especially through my shoe and also as a brand and myself as a whole. The NBA as a league has been doing a great job of it. I think you have to understand that the only way change is going to come is by having those uncomfortable conversations. It’s not going to be an easy one for myself. It’s not going to be an easy one for my fellow white counterparts, white people in general. I think the conversation just needs to be had because we’ve been crying for change for so many years. This is a time where we need to act on it and honestly, it’s not even just African Americans, it’s really white people as well, being able to understand and accept that there is social injustice and systemic racism as well.

Donald Trump calls NBA players kneeling during anthem 'disgraceful'

In a Wednesday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, Trump was asked about his take on the state of the league, which has seen the majority of its players and coaches kneel during the anthem in support of Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements. Two players — the Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard and the Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac — have stood during the anthem since 22 teams resumed their season in Orlando, Florida. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a vocal critic of racial injustice, and assistant Becky Hammon have also chosen to stand during the national anthem. “When I see people kneeling during the playing and disrespecting our flag and national anthem, what I do personally is turn off the game,” Trump said in the phone interview.

“The ratings for the basketball are way down, as you know,” Trump said. “I hear some others are way down, including baseball. We have stand up for our flag, stand up for our country. A lot of people agree with me. If I’m wrong, I’m going to lose an election. That’s okay with me. I will always stand for our flag.” Trump also addressed Black Lives Matter, comparing himself to former president Abraham Lincoln. “Black Lives Matter,” he said. “Nobody has done better for our Black community than me. Nobody. With the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln; it’s true. Criminal justice reform, opportunity zones, best employment numbers in history. Again, nobody has done for the black community – by far. I’ll give the one exception: Abraham Lincoln.”

Caruso, who is white, has chosen to wear “Black Lives Matter” on his jersey in Orlando, Florida, to support the fight for racial equality. “This is something that Black people can’t do on their own,” Caruso told The Undefeated. “This isn’t something where they can wake up and say, ‘You know what? I’m just grinding, being an activist and talking to so many people and it’s going to get done.’ … “Being in the NBA has actually taught me how important it is to talk about these things. Being in LA this last year, my life has changed because everyone knows what I am doing. Anytime I saw something or tweeted something, it is not just me and my small group of friends. There are people that are watching. I just think it is important for people to know what is right from wrong. In its simplest form, everyone should be treated equal.”

Redick says he has received backlash for calling out racism as he sees it. But don’t expect the 14-year NBA veteran to shy away from the criticism. “Nobody likes to be called a racist,” Redick said. “Nobody likes to be accused of thinking like a racist. I get why people would be sensitive to that. But there is always pushback. Anytime I saw something about Trump, there was pushback about that. And again, I’m going to go back to that word, empathy. “If you have that, there really isn’t pushback. You can empathize the political situation. You can empathize the social situation. The justice system. All that stuff. And I don’t really f—— care, to be honest with you.”

Haslem is now 40, with three sons ranging in age from 9 to 21, and they’ve had a much different life experience given the lifestyle an NBA paycheck has afforded him. But Haslem still fears for his children because they exist in a place where they often look different than the people in their circle. “It’s even more scary,” Haslem said. “When you’re growing up in the inner city and you hear about police brutality and violence and things like that, you kind of feel like – and this is a terrible way to look at it – but you kind of be like, ‘It happens all the time.’ The police always messing with somebody. Or White people are always messing with us. You just kind of feel like that’s the norm. “And as you get older, you start to realize, that’s not normal and it’s not OK. And when you start to get out of your surroundings, which you were so confined in at that young age, you start to see the world at a different angle and different eyes and you realize there’s no way you should’ve been treated like that growing up. There’s no way your friends should’ve got harassed like that. There’s no way they went into your pockets and questioned you. But at that age, you just think that’s what it is.”

“This movement has grown in such a way where frankly, it’s irresistible,” Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said in a telephone interview. She added that seeing those words on NBA courts, in Major League Baseball stadiums and on T-shirts worn by athletes near and far, including those in European soccer leagues, “blows me away. It’s incredibly amazing. “I think that this moment reflects the ongoing organizing and activism of people who have been toiling for so long in the shadows,” she said. “This movement is not new. The fight for racial equality. The fight for human rights and civil rights is as old as the history of enslavement in this country, and every generation – as John Lewis would say – is responsible for carrying that torch forward to make sure that we achieve the goal of making Black Lives Matter in our democracy, in our economy and in our society. I think what this moment represents is a real reckoning.”

Although Black Lives Matter continues to get resistance from disingenuous people seeking to distort and diminish its purpose, the meaning in the message has remained consistent: the fight for equality should transcend partisan politics. The league doesn’t fear a backlash for embracing the phrase, believing that anyone upset enough to stop watching its games would be alienating themselves. Equality isn’t up for debate. “We didn’t view ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a political matter. We viewed this as a broader movement. This is a human rights issue,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in a telephone interview with The Athletic. “Black Lives Matter has come to represent a broader movement around racial inequality and we support our players, our coaches, our staff, our teams, in speaking out on these critically important issues.”

While approved protests — such as kneeling — could easily be misconstrued, Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney who has handled several high-profile cases, from Martin to Floyd, believes the influence of subliminal messaging over the next three months — such as the Black Lives Matter signage on the court and on T-shirts — cannot be overstated. “Symbols and images matter,” Crump said in a telephone interview with The Athletic. “There is a reason the NAACP has the Image Awards, because as the psychologists say, ‘Once you observe an image, even if it’s just for a few seconds, it literally left an indelible mark on your brain, on your subconscious.’ For every NBA fan to have to see that image every game really helps put in their subconscious mind, Black Lives Matter.”

All Sixers players and coaches kneeled Saturday night during the national anthem ahead of the team’s first game at Disney World. Indiana Pacers players and coaches also kneeled, in addition to the game’s referees. The team decided to protest racial injustice after a tumultuous stretch of over four months since their last game that featured protests around the country after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others at the hands of police. The majority of players from other NBA teams have done the same ahead of their opening seeding games.

Wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt over a jersey that he ordered to say “Equality,” and as all other coaches and players around him knelt, Leonard stood for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Saturday before the Heat re-opened their season by facing the Denver Nuggets at Walt Disney World. “Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,” Leonard told The Associated Press prior to the game. “I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.”

Marc Stein: NBA spokesman on Jimmy Butler: “Displaying no name or message on the back of a player’s jersey was not an option among the social justice messages agreed upon by the Players Association and the NBA as modifications to the rules regarding uniforms.” NBA spokesman (continued) on Miami’s Jimmy Butler being asked to take off a jersey with no name and replace it with a jersey bearing BUTLER: ”Per league rules, the uniform may not be otherwise altered and anyone wearing an altered jersey will not be permitted to enter the game.”

The protest wasn’t unexpected: Players had been talking about using games to amplify their social justice message for months. Still, the symbolism was powerful. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, wiped away tears. Several NBA personnel members clapped for the players after the anthem ended. And following the game, players made it clear that they plan to continue kneeling. “The ‘stick to sports’ crowd, ‘keep politics out of sports’ — all those things, they’re meaningless now,” Pelicans guard JJ Redick said. “You can’t. Politics and sports coexist now. And the league has recognized that.”

Gasol was asked about the potential for the re-start of meaningful games to mitigate some of the attention the drive for social change is getting from the NBA players. “I don’t worry too much about diluting the message because it’s really strong and it goes beyond sports,” Gasol said. “I’m sure we will do a great job of continuing to enforce it.” … Gasol made another good point about the lack of a cheering crowd during these games. While the preference would be — pandemic permitting — to have 20,000 screaming Raptors fans backing him and his teammates each night, he says he has found some advantages to a less noisy playing atmosphere. “When it comes to basketball it’s pretty pure,” he said of the arenas on campus. “You can hear everything. You can communicate easily with all your teammates and so it has its good things too. During a timeout you can hear everything really clear.”

Players, coaches and teams have made it clear that shutting up and dribbling is not an option this season. The Hawks, Pistons and Kings have each worked out deals with their respective cities that their arenas will be used as polling places for the Nov. 3 general election; the Hornets and Wizards are working on similar arrangements. Each of those teams has already announced all of their employees will be given Election Day off with pay to make it easier for them to vote. “Black Lives Matter” is decaled on all of the courts in Florida that will host NBA and WNBA games this season.

“I think basketball is secondary,” said Portland guard CJ McCollum, a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. “It’s our job,” he said. “Obviously we have a responsibility to fulfill those obligations. But it’s also our job to fulfill and protect our neighborhoods, and protect the people who look like us, and come from places like us, and don’t exactly have the same voices that we do. I think that that’s something that’s been on all of our minds. We’ve been very proactive about it. And me, a person who’s big on education, education reform, I’ve continued to try to have those conversations with like-minded people, people who care about education.

“We continue to figure out ways to collectively make an impact and making change. But there are people who are involved in prison reform. There are people involved in police reform, and so many other different things that are moreso up their alley. We continue to try to have those discussions, conversations. And the biggest thing for us is education. You want to be educated on the matters you’re speaking on, and really have a passion, and make sure that it’s a point of focus for you individually.”

“I think we’ve all bought in,” Malone said. “Obviously we’re basketball coaches, we’re basketball players. We get paid to do that. That’s our livelihood. But we also have off-court interests. We all want to be active participants in what’s going on. As I’ve said many times, I do not want to be sitting on the sideline during this movement. I want to help. I want to educate myself, help our players educate themselves, so we can approach this the best way possible. … Us starting off practice today talking about the life and legacy of a guy like John Lewis, to make sure it’s not just about, ‘Hey, our pick-and-roll defense; our offensive execution.’ That is important as we get closer to playing games. But I know we are dedicated as an organization to make sure we’re doing as much as we can to continue to keep that education and that light where it needs to be. … To me, I think it’s an easy balance.”

Josh Robbins: (1/2) These are the phrases and words Magic players have chosen to wear on their jerseys, per the team’s Twitter account: D.J. Augustin: Equality Mo Bamba: Black Lives Matter Michael Carter-Williams: Liberation Gary Clark: Respect Us James Ennis: Justice Now

NBA players had discussed the possibility of placing the names of the victims of police brutality on the backs of their jerseys, but instead were told that they could choose from a list of 29 social justice messages that were approved by the league. Roberts explained that the decision not to go with individual names was, in part, because, “My personal fears, there are a lot of brothers and sisters who have been killed. What if we exclude someone who was killed? George Floyd but not Tamir Rice?” Instead of offending the families that might be omitted, the NBA chose to remove the option. Baker was fine with that decision. “I kind of like that they didn’t do it,” she said. “As I said on the WNBA call, since that was their initial idea, let them have that, and let them be recognized that it’s Black women, because otherwise, they would’ve been overshadowed if the NBA decided to do that. So, let the women have that.”

WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson pitched the idea to the union’s executive committee and they all supported the effort. Jackson then sought permission from Palmer to use Taylor’s name on jerseys and T-shirts, a gesture that endeared the WNBA’s plans with the family. They agreed proceeds from sales of the shirts could go toward a newly-established Breonna Taylor foundation. “It was just an idea that really took off,” McCoughtry said. “It was one of those things, you heard Dwight Howard, some other NBA players, say, ‘Oh, it’s a distraction,’ and that kind of stuff. And I was like, ‘It’s not a distraction. We can use our platform, to play. People look up to us, they listen, they’re fans. We can use this.’ You see (Dwight’s) out there now, playing. It goes to show, our platforms are powerful. We have to use them. And we have to be grateful that we have jobs and go out there and perform.”

Will the NBA’s health and safety protocols be enough to ensure a coronavirus outbreak does not occur? To what extent will the NBA and the players continue to speak out on social justice issues? “I don’t know if you can really tell the story of the NBA restart without telling the story about how active these players, coaches and the league have been with the various causes and the social justice push,” Harlan said. “Their voices are enormous in this. Not only will we have ‘Black Lives Matter’ in bold print on the floor. We’ll have names, causes, feelings and thoughts on uniforms that these players want to portray and show. It is every bit as much the story as the teams reassembling, trying to stay healthy and getting back on the floor.”

“I think basketball is secondary,” said Portland guard CJ McCollum, a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. “It’s our job,” he said. “Obviously we have a responsibility to fulfill those obligations. But it’s also our job to fulfill and protect our neighborhoods, and protect the people who look like us, and come from places like us, and don’t exactly have the same voices that we do. I think that that’s something that’s been on all of our minds. We’ve been very proactive about it. And me, a person who’s big on education, education reform, I’ve continued to try to have those conversations with like-minded people, people who care about education. We continue to figure out ways to collectively make an impact and making change. But there are people who are involved in prison reform. There are people involved in police reform, and so many other different things that are moreso up their alley. We continue to try to have those discussions, conversations. And the biggest thing for us is education. You want to be educated on the matters you’re speaking on, and really have a passion, and make sure that it’s a point of focus for you individually.”

For the restart of the NBA season, however, Morris is taking his name off the back of his jersey. Instead, he will display a social justice message: “Education Reform.” “This is bigger,” Morris told The Undefeated last week after practicing with the Clippers, who resume their season Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. “Obviously, all our purposes are bigger. Guys know who I am. The world knows who I am. I just want to address some social issues. … “Black Lives Matter. That’s first. People have lost their lives to senseless cop actions. That is first. I just wanted to do something deeper in the community. I am from that. So, I understand the transition. As a community, we can start there [with education reform] in doing some things.”

The social justice message will be placed over the number on the back of the players’ jerseys during the first four days of the resumed season. After that, a player who still wants to use a social justice message can have it above his jersey number on the back, while adding their last name on the bottom of the jersey. “I am going to continue to use it,” Morris said. “Four days, that is nothing. Everybody can tune in every other day and see that. As this message continues to get pushed and gets bigger, I’m just willing to wear it the entire season.”

Green: You have on your bus Black Lives Matter. As a Canadian team, it doesn’t directly impact your team, because you’re in an entire different country. What made you guys take the stand and put it on your bus? I think one of 22 teams that actually went through with it. Where did that idea come from, and why did you guys feel the need to push that through? Ujiri: Thanks, Draymond. You’ve been unbelieve on this and what you’re speaking on, and I think the league is proud of you. For us, we said we were going to use the bubble as a statement, right? We said we’re going to use this place as a platform. And we thought that, coming in here, you have to make a statement. You have to, for me, you have to create awareness. What you guys are doing over there is creating awareness. You’re talking about this. And we have to continue to do that. And we thought, what greater way than to ride through Florida for three hours and show people? We know what’s going on in the country, and we’re heading to the bubble.

The other question I could ask Lowry was this: With everything that’s going on, from living in a bubble, to the pandemic at large, to the ongoing push for social justice in which so many in the NBA have become so involved, could Lowry focus on and pursue the basketball goals he would normally have if none of these other things were going on? Here is what he said. “I think the social injustice is the message we are trying to send,” he began. “The Breonna Taylor situation, we want those cops arrested for the murder of her. But the basketball part is our salvation, and if we can go out there and use our message to make sure that we continue to push for that. Yes, we’re here to do our job, but we are also here to do another job and help our communities. If we’re going to be here, and I’m going to be here, then we’re going to focus on both things. I can say honestly that I’m going to focus on winning a championship and doing my postseason job, but I’m also going to focus on the things we’re down here for — voter suppression, education reform. I’m going to do both as best as I can.”
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January 21, 2021 | 2:27 pm EST Update

NBA adjusts handling of COVID-19 scenarios

The NBA’s postponement of three consecutive Memphis Grizzlies games marks an evolution in the league’s handling of COVID-19 scenarios within teams, essentially parking a team and taking it out of circulation once a roster has been exposed to the virus, sources told ESPN on Thursday. In previous instances, the league has allowed teams to isolate positive players and sideline others in contact tracing believed to have been in close proximity to infected individuals — yet still allowed teams to proceed with games if they had eight eligible players.
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Again, it’s an exponential function. If teams exchange opponents every two days, one player can spread the disease to 16 teams within a week. Extend that period to four days, and it’s only four teams, which gives the league a far greater chance of putting out the fire. This takes us to our next point: The league can still fix this. Not immediately, but it can. With the situation likely to get worse before it gets better, and the schedule locked in through March 4, the league faces no choice but to limp through the next six weeks, much as baseball did, and try to avert worst-case scenarios.
After that, however, the ball is in the league’s court. The schedule is not sacrosanct, people, and the league can get to 72(ish) games by mid-May any way it damn well pleases. Given the situation and the stakes, the league should look really hard at a second-half schedule that puts teams in small groups of six to 10 teams, which would prevent team-to-team spread and contact-tracing situations. Save your whining about strength of schedule considerations for another day; the primary consideration here is completing the season in any way possible.
“I moved to 10 days required isolation and then I was doing lots of tests just to come back and going through all the NBA protocols. I feel really good right now. “I’m taking it day by day, practice by practice,” Satoransky said. “This was my first practice with the team. Now we have three days before our next game, so we can go through two full practices. I’m really not thinking about what is my role right now in the rotation because guys played really good the last two games. I’m trying to get my condition to the best level possible and then hopefully I can help.”
Each workout began with a shoe-less mile on the treadmill. Randle began his time with Sanders running it in eight minutes, by the end he was running a 5:30 mile. Sanders follows up on the runs with what he calls “aggressive overload” workouts meant to improve explosion, agility, balance and strength, building up weights and workouts in phases. “I told him,” Sanders said, “they need him in much better shape if he’s gonna be an All-Star.”
Relph put Randle through on-court workouts that accentuated those goals, tasking him with skill drills and pushing him in games to put it all together. In one, he asked Randle to go through a post move, ball screen-and-pop, a shot off one-dribble, and lifting up for a 3. The impact on his playing style this season is clear. Randle is shooting more out of the mid-range — he’s in the 94th percentile percentage of his shots taken as long 2s, according to Cleaning The Glass — and he’s hitting them more often. Last season, Randle hit 42 percent of his mid-range jumpers, via Cleaning The Glass. This season, he’s at 50 percent so far.