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NBA players challenge owners, say they must ‘truly dedicate to advancing’ social justice

Kurt Helin explains why LeBron James was key in continuing talks that eventually led the NBA deciding to resume the 2020 playoffs.

Taking a knee during the national anthem. Wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Talking about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or now Jacob Blake. NBA players understood these were symbolic gestures and felt the impact of their social justice message fading as the NBA’s seeding games became playoff games.

What the players wanted was real change — structural changes in areas such as police reform. The kind of changes that happen because influential people — say, billionaire business and NBA team owners — can make happen.

In the wake of NBA players choosing not to play in playoff games Wednesday in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, owners and players had a conference call Thursday. LeBron James and other players challenged the owners, saying they to be proactive not reactive, to see structural changes and actions, listing some specifics, and they want to see owners truly dedicated to the cause.

Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report/TNT has the details.

NBA owners had already dedicated $300 million over 10 years to empowering the Black community. What the players wanted was for them to use their influence, not just throw money at the problem.

LeBron James wanted to see a plan. When he was “adamant” the playoffs should be shut down it was not about the game or chasing a ring, it was about the lack of a social justice plan. The Bucks boycotted a game without talking about to with anyone, not the league, the players union, or even their opponents. There was no plan when the move was made. LeBron understood that the gestures players make at games can only go so far, and that real change is going to come from people like the billionaire owners of NBA teams demanding it.

With Michael Jordan acting as a bridge, the owners listened. Exactly what form these actions will take remain to be seen, and will vary city-to-city, but there is an energy behind it now.

The NBA playoffs are expected to resume this weekend.