As the NBA attempts to resume its season after the pandemic pause, a major goal of the league is to use its platform as a means to keep attention on the conversation about racism and social injustices.
This initiative, coming in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery that sparked public outrage, hopes to take advantage of all the attention the NBA anticipates when it resumes play.
Boston Celtics players like Enes Kanter and Jaylen Brown have used their platforms for activism for some time now, but their teammates are pleased to be able to speak out against these injustices as well.
In a feature story by Jared Weiss of The Athletic, Celtics players spoke about the impact they hope to have. Here’s what they had to say:
With the conversations that we’ve had, I think it’s going to enhance, rather than dim, the light that’s being spread right now. I think everybody wants to watch basketball and the NBA, and we have voices of influence in our communities and we have obligations to our communities, not just obligations to our organizations.
The more the NBA understands that, the better everybody will feel about it, especially players.
I feel that us going down there and making sure nobody gets distracted is part of the initial correspondence. We have to go down there and make sure that people don’t forget about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Philando Castile or Ahmaud Arbery or Trayvon Martin. And the list goes on, and the countless other people who were not caught on video who experienced something similar.
We always talk about, like, how can we help each other? Because the thing with what’s going on in America, it’s not black against white, it’s everybody against racism. So we are all in this together. The problems are not just happening in America or Turkey, problems are happening all over the world. So that freedom represents the people who are fighting for their rights and are fighting for freedom.
There’s so much that we can do to change and hopefully this discussion doesn’t end any time soon. If we continue to make progress, obviously it’s not going to happen overnight, but just something that we shouldn’t forget about in six months and then we have to wait, unfortunately, for the next incident. That we continue to raise awareness and invest in the youth and educate the younger generation on everything that’s going on in the world to make it a better place for my son and his kids and things like that.
I think we have an opportunity to get together, think about some plans and execute them together. We’re all going to be really close to each other. We got a chance to do something big, and use our platform to the best of our abilities. I think we’ve got a chance to do something really special.
I love how the NBA is trying. I love how they have the Black Lives Matter on the court. I just think by playing, I can use my platform even more because I think there will be no fans on the court, there will be no fans in the stands, so therefore when we do interviews after the games, everything we say will be heard by millions around the world.
We have to talk about the elephant in the room, and we have to get conversations started. We have to be comfortably uncomfortable. It’s OK. Unfortunately for us, we have to have people in the higher places that people will listen to and make a stand — guys with a higher voice than just NBA players.
We have to get the owners to talk about it. We have to get the owners and their constituents to talk about it. These are guys who are billion-dollar people. They have a big influence. And those are the ones, those are the voices that need to be heard because those are the ones that are going to get an even broader audience to listen, and an audience that needs to listen right now.
The Celtics were the first team to draft a Black basketball player when they drafted Chuck Cooper in 1950, rolled out the NBA’s first all Black starting five during the 1963-64 season and hired Bill Russell in 1966 to make him the first Black head coach of any major American sport.
Even if the city of Boston itself wasn’t keen on the decisions, the Celtics organization has a reputation for elevating and amplifying Black voices.
It looks like we’ll see nothing different from that in Orlando at the end of the month.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images