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NBA and players establish social-justice coalition, agree to promote voting


LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 27: The Black Lives Matter logo is seen on an empty court as all NBA playoff games were postponed today during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 27, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NBA players have reportedly decided to resume the season after their walkout of playoff games on Wednesday to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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NBA players decided to end their strike then meet with owners about becoming more dedicated to social justice. Obviously, players lost leverage with that order of events. But owners have shown they’re at least willing to do what’s necessary to present the league as aligned with social justice, and the strike necessitated a greater showing.

So, what did the brief strike accomplish within the NBA?

NBA and NBPA release:

NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released the following joint statement today:

“We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality. Among others, the attendees included player and team representatives of all 13 teams in Orlando. All parties agreed to resume NBA playoff games on Saturday, Aug. 29 with the understanding that the league together with the players will work to enact the following commitments:

1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.

2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.

3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.

“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community.

“We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together – in Orlando and in all NBA team markets – to push for meaningful and sustainable change.”

Using large arenas as polling places seems like a good idea amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those arenas allow more room for social distancing, and it’s important to protect safe voting. This was already in the works in many cities.

Players, coaches, owners and ads promoting voting? Sure.

But I’m most curious about a social-justice coalition of players, coaches and owners to advocate for “meaningful police and criminal justice reform.” Police and criminal-justice reform would be good. But reasonable people have different ideas about how to do that. For example, Clippers coach Doc Rivers just said, “We’re not trying to defund the police.” That’s an unpopular position in some progressive circles. This coalition wasn’t formed because its members have a shared vision on how to proceed. It happened because players wanted to do something, and everyone wanted to keep players happy enough to keep the money flowing. Hopefully, the coalition will help create meaningful change. But I have some skepticism.