NBA Athletes use their position to advocate for justice outside the bubble


Henry Boehm, Sports Editor

“I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as Black people in America. Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified,” LeBron James said following the Lakers’ Game 4 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, August 24. 

From their isolated bubble in Orlando, Florida, the NBA has taken a stand against the widespread mistreatment of African Americans this summer that has been highlighted by acts of police brutality. Professional athletes like LeBron James have made it clear where the professional sports industry stands in respect to this struggle.

“If you’re sitting here and telling me that there was no way to subdue that gentleman or detain him or just before the firing of guns, then you’re sitting here and lying to not only me, but you’re lying to every African American, every Black person in the community, because we see it over and over and over,” said James.

Following the tragic and unwarranted shooting of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, the National Basketball Coaches Association issued a statement in which they called the events “shameful, inhumane and intolerable.” Players and coaches alike banded together in support of the Black Lives Matter movement; virtually ensuring that the public would see some form of their plight manifest itself in the revolutionary Disney bubble.

Despite the victories that the NBA has had so far in the conclusion to their unorthodox season, their dedication to social justice has never been more apparent than the events that have unfolded in late August. For the majority of their time in the bubble, the players and coaches’ support of the Black Lives Matter movement was limited to such actions as wearing warm-up gear featuring Black Lives Matter messages and images, kneeling during the national anthem, and posting official statements on social media. Then, on August 23, another form of police brutality manifested itself in the macabre shooting of 29-year-old African American Jacob Blake in Kenosha Wisconsin.

Immediately, the NBA responded days later when the Bucks dramatically walked out of the locker room on August 26 before Game 5 of the best-of-seven playoff series against the Magic. Shortly thereafter, the NBA released a statement following an emotional three-hour meeting between players and coaches that all three of Wednesday’s postseason games were postponed. And so began a series of protests across professional sports, with the WNBA canceling its full slate of games for Wednesday (and also Thursday), and three MLB games getting postponed as well. NBA legend LeBron James went as far as to call for the cancellation of the season. Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that Kawhi Leonard was on LeBron’s side in being “adamant” about canceling the rest of the playoffs. 

Though play resumed the next day and the playoffs are still on schedule, protests still rage for equality in Kenosha and countless other towns and cities across the United States. The passion and determination of the NBA in support of social justice and the extensive support seen in other professional venues following is indicative of not only the social predicament that plagues our nation, but also of the apparent place that professional sports and their sponsors have taken in the fight to ensure equality for all Americans.

“I still have a job to do because I’m here. Because I committed. And when I commit to something, I feel like I have to come through. That’s just who I am,” James said. “But that does not mean that I don’t see what’s going on and I won’t say anything or continue to use my platform, continue to use my voice and continue to uplift all of the other athletes to let them know that they can say and do what’s right and not fear what other people’s opinions are.”