Prior to Thursday evening, the NBA was dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s to finish out the season in Walt Disney World. There was a set date, a set location, and a set list of guidelines.

But as the league pushed forward with their plans, another reality emerged. 

Reports from Shams, Woj, Taylor Rooks, and Keith Smith detail what seems to be a powerful message led by Kyrie Irving: we must use our platform to speak out against social injustice in our country.

The NBA is, of course, predominantly black athletes, and with the current state of affairs one can imagine their opinions on the social injustices we’ve seen in recent weeks. With these issues in mind, they have to make a decision – do they play in Orlando while continuing to speak about the injustices, or would their craft simply become a distraction?

Relief or Distraction?

It’s a difficult question to ask. There may not even be a right answer. But after last night’s call, there is a growing mindset that sports would only detract from George Floyd’s death and the movement it created in this country.

As you can imagine, there are many opinions on this decision. Some seem to agree with Kyrie, arguing that there must be pronounced changes to our social construct (or promises to said changes by our political leaders) before these athletes will use their talents as a source of entertainment. Others, however, argue that both social reform and a return to “normal sports” can occur simultaneously. As long as the players have their platform on and off the court, they are welcome to fight for what they believe.

My Own Thoughts

Personally (and this is, of course, my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of everyone else on this website), I find myself leaning in favor of Kyrie Irving’s arguments.

Watching basketball, especially the Thunder, is a great form of entertainment for all of us on this website. It’s a moment to forget the stresses of work or our personal life. But it is, by the same token, a distraction from the other issues surrounding our country.

In a strange way, COVID-19 has a silver lining to it. By stopping all normal life and activities, it gave us time to reflect. With the death of George Floyd, that period of reflection shifted solely to those social and civil injustices. It allowed thousands upon thousands of citizens who may have been working their normal jobs to protest in the streets and fight for reform. And without sports, those who typically would glue themselves to the screen of NBATV or ESPN were now watching the protests every evening.

All of these things manifested themselves into a perfect opportunity to create change in our society. And for Kyrie Irving alongside many other NBA players, we are deconstructing that opportunity if we start to add these entertainment sources.

With all of this said, I do believe there is a path to resume the season while the players continue to speak about these injustices using their platform, but it will need to be discussed carefully with the league.

Even after Kyrie’s statement, Woj and others continue to report that most NBA superstars want to resume the season in Orlando. But this plea last night created another schism that will take some time to amend.

Additionally, many players’ agents are pushing them to participate due to the long-term financial consequences — another factor that will become increasingly important the longer the season is delayed.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Short answer, I don’t know. I don’t know what degree of change is acceptable for the sector of the NBA community that wants to sit out the season. But at the very least, I hope this potential “lockout” of sorts can create another strong wave of awareness for the people of this country.

We might have differing opinions on the specific social issues at stake, but one thing is certain: we all want to go back to some form of normalcy. Maybe that means stepping out of your comfort zone, maybe it means listening more, maybe it means trying to understand the other side just a little bit better. Maybe then we will get the basketball we all want to see.

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Matt Tierney