One of the central arguments against restarting the NBA season was the momentum social justice reform had gained in the United States. Playing basketball would theoretically provide a distraction for a nation whose focus should be on combatting both systemic racism and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and a number of players were reportedly uneasy about being part of such a distraction. Were the NBA to resume play under the circumstances, it would have to use its platform in the name of social change in order to satisfy those players. Fortunately, the NBA has taken significant steps in that arena.
On Saturday, it was reported that players will be able to include social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys at Disney. That decision, while powerful, puts the onus on players. The league itself needed to send a message of solidarity, and is doing so with its latest decision. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Zach Lowe and Ramona Shelburne, the league plans to paint “Black Lives Matter” on both sidelines on all three of the courts they will be using at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
The WNBA is also reportedly considering doing the same when it begins its season at IMG Academy, also in Florida. In addition, WNBA players are considering wearing warmup shirts with the words “say her name,” in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her home by Louisville police in March, as well as other female victims of police brutality.
A number of players have already opted out of playing at Disney. Some have cited a desire to spend more time with their families while others have discussed their fear of the coronavirus, but a desire to use this time to push for added social justice reform has been at the center of some of their choices. “As promised also, I will use this time away to focus on the formation of projects to help strengthen my communities,” Lakers guard Avery Bradley told Wojnarowski when he decided to sit out.
The movement for further social change in the United States is ongoing, and the NBA has typically been at the forefront of that moment. Now it will join its players in pushing for major reform across the country and world.