NBA players are upset. Upset police shot a Black man, Jacob Blake, seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Upset they’re in the bubble while all this is happening outside it.
Raptors guard Norman Powell and Celtics guard Marcus Smart – whose teams are scheduled to play Game 1 of their second-round series tomorrow – even said a boycott was being discussed.
Apparently, those talks are advancing.
The NBA Players Association executive committee is in active discussions with players who are seeking guidance on the logistics of potentially boycotting games, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Players began reaching out to the committee in recent days, sharing that they’re not in the right frame of mind to play basketball, sources said.
Sources said there is a sizable faction of players who are psychologically distraught by the video of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to get into his vehicle.
The hearts of players are heavy, with some feeling intense guilt for playing and that they’re providing entertainment that is drowning out the injustices that are plaguing this country, sources said.
Boycotts are designed to spark change and are naturally more effective when more people participate. That’s different than individual players personally deciding they just can’t focus on basketball right now.
Are some players trying to organize larger boycotts? Are some players considering individual boycotts? Are some players just pondering a personal decision not to prioritize basketball right now?
Each is different.
All are understandable.
With a heightened awareness of injustices like racism and police brutality, many people feel the desire to do… well, something. It can be difficult to determine what that something is. Kneeling during the national anthem, wearing corporate-approved social-justice messages on jerseys and speaking up during press conferences haven’t solved the problem. So, NBA players are looking for something that will. Maybe that’s boycotting.
But there are no simple answers, because racism is not a simple problem. It is embedded into so many elements of our system and will take years to properly address.
It’s easy to imagine an alternate universe where players boycotted the NBA’s resumption at Disney World. Police probably still would have shot Jacob Blake. In that universe, players might be regretting not playing and using their platforms to advocate for change.
Players shouldn’t feel guilty for playing. Basketball is not that important to the world. People who want a distraction will fine one. Many people are paying attention to both the NBA and the push for racial justice. NBA players are aiding that cause through their messaging.
However, even if basketball isn’t that important to the world, players securing their salaries can be very important to them.
Of course, money isn’t everything. Many people feel disillusioned with their normal jobs while more important things are happening in the world. Why should NBA players be any different? The desire to step away from something trivial like basketball is very relatable. Yet, earning an income remains important.
It’s a lot to balance.
Boston and Toronto players boycotting Game 1 would raise many questions. What are their demands for ending the boycott? Can those demands be met? How quickly? How would that affect logistics of playing the series?
Players leaving the bubble would cause even greater complications. Could the Raptors lose enough players to be disqualified from the playoffs? Would they be given time to add replacements?
A boycott would be extreme in the scope of the NBA.
Enough to make a dent in the greater world? That’s more questionable.