In addition to the wide-ranging list of health and bubble-related concerns that was reportedly expressed by a group of players during a Friday conference call regarding the NBA’s return, it also appears that two schools of thought on how to best support the nationwide movement for social justice reform have emerged. While some see playing in Orlando as an opportunity to amplify black voices, others view it as a potential distraction from the issues the black community is facing.
Malcolm Brogdon, who is a member of the NBPA executive committee and has long been attempting to use his voice for change, explained on J.J. Redick’s podcast why he thinks resuming the season could further the conversation on matters of civil/social unrest.
“For guys that take the perspective of ‘I’d rather play’ — and I think that’s a better fit for myself,” said Brogdon, while also noting that may not be the case for everybody. “If that’s what guys are thinking, it is in terms of...you have more of a voice, you have more of a platform.
“Everybody going to be watching us,” he continued. “We have all the cameras. There are no other sports on. Everybody wants us to play right now, and that means everybody’s going to be watching. There’s only 22 teams that are going to be there. And, as you go, if your team advances to the second or third round of the playoffs, the attention on you and your platform...it actually grows the (longer) you stay in Orlando, so that’s definitely a perspective I want guys to think about and understand before they make a decision.”
According to The Athletic, Myles Turner and Justin Holiday were also among the players on the call led by Kyrie Irving and joined by Brogdon. Turner, in particular, has been outspoken in support of black-owned businesses in the wake of George Floyd’s death but also has recently been posting videos of himself getting in training, indicating his readiness to resume the season.
“Part of it’s like, ‘Man, you’ve got to suck it up and go out there and do what you’re paid to do,’ but the other part of it is like, ‘Listen man this basketball s—t, I love it, it’s part of what makes me, me, but but it’s not all of what makes me, me, either’ and I have a responsibility as a young black professional athlete to advocate for this change.” Turner said, while sounding internally conflicted, in an interview, via Amp Harris Productions.
As such, until information is reported to the contrary, it’s entirely possible that either’s decision to log onto the call could have been as much about gathering information and brainstorming ways to inspire change as potentially not playing.
In any case, as executive committee members, Irving and Brogdon have a responsibility to their constituents to vet the potential pros and cons of picking up the season in Orlando and lend an audience to those among the rank-and-file who may not feel like their voices have been heard. After all, like Brogdon said on Redick’s podcast, whether to play or sit out without pay is “an individual decision that every man has to make for himself,” and every man, whether registering concerns related to COVID-19, movement restrictions in Orlando, potential lack of leverage in future CBA negotiations, or what role sports should play in fighting for social justice, at least deserves to be in on the sorts of conversations that need to be had.