This article appeared in the June 16, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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NBA players wrestle with how to fight racial injustice

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
NBA player Russell Westbrook joins demonstrators June 7, 2020, in Compton, California, during a protest over the death of George Floyd who died May 25 after he was restrained by Minneapolis police.

As the National Basketball Association solidified plans to resume play in Orlando, Florida, next month, the league figured that pandemic safety concerns would keep some players at home. Now something else may stop their participation: their moral compass. 

NBA players are facing a dilemma: What’s the most effective way to help end racial injustice, to play or boycott?

Last Friday, injured Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving hosted a Zoom meeting with more than 80 players. He urged them to cancel the NBA 2020 season, saying, “I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social justice],” reported The Athletic. 

Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard released a statement Saturday that reads in part, “Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction.” 

The quest for racial equality is bigger than sports. And these NBA players want to seize what’s seen as historic momentum. Others, including LeBron James, argue that a televised NBA game offers a bigger advocacy platform – and a more diverse audience – than a Twitter following. 

We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way Black lives are lived,” Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers wrote on Instagram. 

As some fans observe, to work – or not – is a multimillionaire’s dilemma. But the fact that these wealthy athletes are having a public debate over how to best push for lasting justice is a kind of progress too.

This article appeared in the June 16, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 06/16 edition
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