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NBA and players’ union agree on social justice plan

NBA star Chris Paul speaks during a news conference at the American International School in Johannesburg, South Africa.
(Themba Hadebe / Associated Press)

A meeting Tuesday between leaders of the NBA and the players’ union closed with an in-principle agreement that “the goal of the season restart in Orlando will be to take collective action to combat systemic racism and promote social justice,” both sides announced in a joint news release.

The meeting was attended by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players union executive director Michele Roberts, union president and Oklahoma City guard Chris Paul and vice president and Miami guard Andre Iguodala, among others, with the purpose of advancing the league’s response to social justice issues.

According to both the union and the league, no specific plan was finalized but there was “broad alignment about the direction and priorities of the efforts, especially with regard to supporting players’ activism and leadership.”

The meeting included discussions about increasing Black representation in the NBA and among its teams; greater inclusion of Black-owned and operated businesses across the NBA, and the formation of an NBA foundation with the aim of increasing educational and economic development opportunities in Black communities.

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The talks are ongoing, the sides said.

“The issues of systemic racism and police brutality in our country need to end,” Paul said in the news release. “As a union of NBA players and as a league, it is our job to use our collective platform to both put a spotlight on those issues and work to effect change. As players, we have taken a leadership role when it comes to using our voices and implementing practical solutions, but there is much work ahead both in Orlando and long-term to continue the momentum and bring about real, long-lasting change to our society.”

NBA players like JaVale McGee and James Harden have asthma, among the health concerns on the radar of teams when the season resumes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Silver said the league and its players “are committed to collective action to build a more equal and just society.”

The meeting came at a time when players are still deciding whether to take part when 22 of the league’s 30 teams convene on the Walt Disney World campus in early July. Games are scheduled to start July 30 and the postseason is set to run through early October. Players who wish to opt out of playing in Orlando as an “excused player” must notify the players’ union by the end of Wednesday. The union must then notify the NBA by Thursday.

Among players’ concerns are the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida near the Disney World campus and the susceptibility to injury after months with limited opportunities for training.

Maintaining a spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement is also a considerable concern held by some players, a stance that helped lead the union and the league to meet Tuesday.

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It was because of the latter topic that Clippers guard Lou Williams said last week he was “50-50” on whether he wanted to participate. He had yet to make a decision as of Tuesday, according to his agent, Wallace Prather. Lakers guard Avery Bradley plans to opt out over health concerns for a family member.

“If more Black kids or more Black adults or any adults that’s dealing with police brutality are getting killed and we’re still outraged, I don’t know if it’s in our best interests to suit up because it looks like we don’t care,” Williams said during a live video chat.

Williams added that players had discussed with the league whether Black Lives Matter patches could adorn jerseys or the game courts.


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