National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said the players she represents spent the weekend discussing how they could best use “our obvious influence — either by playing or not playing — to make sure we enhance and move this movement forward” rather than distracting from it.
After nearly 100 NBA players participated in a Friday night call, in which Brooklyn Nets guard and NBPA vice president Kyrie Irving made a case against resuming the season in Orlando, Florida, in late July, Roberts said players have spent the weekend considering how the league’s return might affect the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s not a question of play or not play,” Roberts told ESPN. “It’s a question of, does playing again harm a movement that we absolutely, unequivocally embrace? And then whether our play can, in fact, highlight, encourage and enhance this movement.
“That’s what they’re talking about. They’re not fighting about it; they’re talking about it.”
Several players on the call Friday said they were considering sitting out the remainder of the season in order to focus on social justice issues, or because they were uncomfortable with the proposed plans to resume the season with 22 teams in a campus-like environment in Orlando, sources said.
Others argued that the NBA can bring more attention to the movement by playing and using the league’s platforms afforded them once the season resumes.
For example, Roberts has mentioned to several players that one of the most powerful examples of athletes using their platform to protest and promote social change came in 1968, when American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised black-gloved fists while on the medal stand at the Summer Olympics.
In order to be on the podium for that iconic moment, Roberts said, both men had to run — and earn a medal in — their 200-meter race.
As such, Roberts said she has urged each player to make his own decision about whether it feels appropriate or comfortable to play, because it is such a personal decision for each player.
ESPN’s reporting with players, agents, the NBPA and league officials over the weekend found no indication that the NBA’s return is in jeopardy — or that there’s even a significant group of players ready to sit out.
There are expected to be some