by Tara Hebbar and Manavi Nag.
A wave of protests, riots, awareness, pleas of justice has been drowning the US the past few months. These are all part of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has been gaining rhythm, traction and attention all over the world. In the light of the current pandemic, the NBA (National Basketball Association) has also restarted the season once more. This restart is a one location game with all players isolated in “the bubble” with top-notch safety precautions. This has also been in the spotlight for the past few months as we are nearing the end of the conference finals. As role models to millions of young minds, the NBA and all its players and staff have been advocating strongly for the same movement. They have been calling for justice for every single person who has been brutally struck by people who are part of the police force.
The NBA is made up predominantly of Black players with about 74.4% of all the players being black, as of 2015. With more than half of the players in the NBA being Black people, many of them have faced racism, discrimination and other prejudiced behaviour on the basis of the skin colour, throughout their lifetime which could be a core reason as to why so many of them are dedicated to helping out the cause. The NBA has also taken this stance because as a league with majority black players, it is important that they show that they stand with the movement that brings racial justice to more than half of the entire NBA league players.
The NBA as a franchise has also introduced several measures to show their support to the cause. These measures include, the BlackLivesMatter logo plastered on the court and given importance during every game. Ads, during breaks, that call for justice. A social justice message on each player’s jersey. Taking the knee during the national anthem. Several players have donated their salaries or a portion of it to the cause, with many starting foundations to assist it. The symbol is everywhere, from buses, jerseys, masks to clothes. One of the biggest events was the walkout, where several NBA teams refused to play after the shooting of Jacob Blake. This was led by the Milwaukee Bucks, and supported by the NBA as they cancelled the games that took place in the next couple of days. The league and its players did not want to distract from the movement. This was to give players, coaches and staff members alike, adequate time to help the cause. Many players and teams have also taken to the streets to show their displeasure. Subsequently, they also have strongly advocated and encouraged every single player, citizen to vote. They’ve led purely by example, with several teams registering every member to vote. As an avid NBA watcher, every ad break, there is at least one message that calls out for the stop of racism and social injustice or a statement made by players encouraging all eligible to vote as the election nears.
The NBA walkout has been met with resonance and happiness from the public. However, it can be argued that there is no need to make sports political. Although, is bringing racial justice to black people political? Furthermore, in a league with almost 75% of the players being black, it is extremely important to show empathy and understanding of the racism, discrimination and more, that many of the black players have faced because being an NBA player has not exempted the black players from racism.
Every basketball player or staff member has their own reason to participate and play their part in contributing to this large scale movement. May it be, personal experience, empathy or because they have the outreach to make a difference. Whatever the reason, every individual has propelled this movement forward.
The direct impact of the NBA’s measures like the walk-outs, donations, jerseys, taking the knee and many more may not be much, however, it did shine a light on something that is not highlighted much in sports. They’ve inspired so many more to play a part. All we can say is that no matter how large their contribution, big or small, monetary or vocal, they all have made a huge and everlasting crater in not only American but NBA history as well. The actions taken by the NBA started conversations, raised awareness and stood with all the black lives lost at the hands of racism.