The NBA and Social Justice; Players Use their Platforms to Demand Reform

Cameron Takmil, Sports Editor

Throughout 2020, civil rights and police brutality have been at the forefront of political discourse. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, as well as the countless others, revitalized the Black Lives Matter movement, drawing attention to the systemic racism and police brutality in America. Three-fourths of the players in the NBA identify as African American and many players used their platform to express their frustration with the policing in America. Some players have even gone as far as sharing their intimate experiences with racism in American society. Players such as Lebron James have used their platforms for a long time, in order to voice their concerns over racial inequality. Although players have faced backlash for using their platforms in previous years, they have continued to amplify their message of anti-racism. Fox News’ Laura Ingraham has bashed Kevin Durant and LeBron James for speaking out in the past, telling them to “shut up and dribble!”. While some were quick to criticize the NBA for using their platform in years past for other social justice issues, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was quick to make the Black Lives Matter movement a focal point of the NBA’s return to play. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA opted to suspend their season, and when all thought the season was doomed, the NBA was able to create a “bubble” that ensured their players’ safety. With a closed out environment in Disneyworld, Orlando, the NBA has been able to provide a safe environment for players to resume the season and finish playoffs.  

Adam Silver and other NBA executives have made it a priority to champion and represent the BLM movement and have allowed players to use their platforms to address the injustice in American society. In addition to a players’ name and kit number, players were also allowed to add phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Education Reform,” “Equality,” “Say Their Names,” and “Justice for Breonna” and countless others to their uniform. By placing these phrases on their jerseys, the players emphasized the greater importance of the message on their back, rather than the game’s final score. When asked “What is your current focus going forward in the playoffs?”, Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo responded, “I’m focused on getting justice for Breonna Taylor.”  Adebayo and others have used social media, interviews, and media exposure to speak out on the Breonna Taylor case and have called for reform. 

The sports world stopped once more after Milwaukee police officers shot Jacob Blake. The Milwaukee Bucks, in protest of the officers’ actions, boycotted a playoff game. This would lead all four major sports leagues in America to boycott and suspend their play for a few days, as many players pressured Milwaukee legislators to pass bills that addressed police brutality in the state and around the nation

The modifications made to the jerseys weren’t the only facet in the NBA’s support of the BLM movement. The words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” were painted in the middle of courts, the only defining feature in an otherwise blank court. Players have started in commercials encouraging people to vote and have engaged in seminars led by Michelle Obama, while NBA executives have repurposed arenas as voting sites. While the future of professional and spectator sports and results of the NBA season are still up in the air, NBA players have become an integral part of the BLM movement and the push for racial justice in America.


Disclaimer: This article pulled upon coverage from CNN and ESPN.