NBA Takes A Stand Vs. Social Justice

Thomas Whitley, Sports Writer

               As student-athletes we are taught that we are more than athletes.  This makes it Ironic that professional athletes face so much backlash when they use their platform to speak up for social justice. Since I’m a player myself, it confuses me and I begin to question, “am I just an athlete?” During the summer, the call for social justice was at an all time high and NBA players answered the call. The players all took their media time to shed light on what the African-American community were going through. Most players also elected to put the names of African Americans who were wrongly murdered by the police on the back of their jerseys. But it almost ended when James Blake was shot 7 times, another unarmed black man. 

               When this happened the players of the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their game. This led to the cancellation of games for the next few days. The players began serious talks about boycotting the season. According to the article  “NBA Players Taking Fight for Social Justice into Their Own Hands” by Sean Highkin the players were “putting millions of dollars on the line if the season doesn’t resume”. It was seen as an incredible act for these athletes to potentially give up their salaries to take a stand in the African American community. Even though they ultimately played as an athlete, it was inspiring to see the player stand up for what was right. Being a high school athlete, I learned the importance of standing up for what right even when other things or factors were at risk. 

               I got the chance to speak to an ERHS athlete and coach and pick their brain on social justice and how they felt about players speaking out and taking a stand. Elijah Clary, a senior basketball player, said he “appreciated the fact that the players were using their influence to show younger players and people that it is ok to speak up on the social issues going on in our world.” When asked how he can be active with social justice as a high school student athlete Clary felt posting videos speaking on social justice could help even though they are “small steps”. While discussing the actions taken by the NBA players, Clary said “witnessing the athletes take a stand made him feel like he had power to make change” even on a smaller platform. 

               Brendan O’connell, the head basketball coach at ERHS also pitched in on the topic. Also being a social studies teacher he “loves” teaching students about social issues. When it came to the players protesting he stated that he generally thought of sports in a “separate arena than social issues” but he understood why pro athletes use their “power and influence” to speak up for change. He goes on to say that as a coach his job is to “educate students” so if there were social issues that they want to learn about he would love to help them. O’connell also discussed that he sent his team a voter registration page so they could all help people vote. 

Being a student-athlete and an African American it was inspiring to see the NBA  players take a stand. The athletes did not care that they could possibly miss out on millions of dollars because they were aware of the bigger problem. Social justice is a major problem in the US and we need as many voices as possible to speak on what is going on. Even though what the players did will not cause change right away, it is still a step in the right direction.