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Pro­fes­sional NBA players. Courtesy | Pixy

The first round of the National Bas­ketball Asso­ci­ation playoffs hit a snag last week when the teams involved in every game decided to boycott their com­pe­ti­tions for three days. The reason for this boycott was due to their anger over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis­consin on August 23. 

Boy­cotting games is a pow­erful statement, one that has proven suc­cessful in gaining the attention of the national media. This does not mean, however, that it is a viable long-term option for the league, espe­cially when dealing with issues of social justice. 

The NBA, as well as other major sports leagues, have been plat­forms for ath­letes to make them­selves and their causes heard for a long time. Even 60 years ago, NBA champion Bill Russell sat out of a game as a demon­stration against racist behavior. Russell’s Black team­mates on the Boston Celtics fol­lowed suit, as did Black players for their opponent, the St. Louis Hawks.

For those who choose to use their platform in this way, there are many oppor­tu­nities to do so. Because team members are inter­viewed before, during, and after every game, they have the option to voice their opinions on any­thing from anger over a missed foul call, to a call to take action to promote racial equality. In this restarted season, the latter has shown to be the subject of intense focus for both players and coaches alike. 

However, sus­pending all pro­fes­sional bas­ketball games because racism hasn’t com­pletely ceased to exist in the last four months isn’t going to do any­thing to change society in the long run. 

What will make change is going back to playing games, making mil­lions of dollars, donating much or all of it to anti-racism causes, and actually taking steps to organize protests and pro­grams to fight against racism. 

Working to further limit instances of racism and police bru­tality will likely be a con­tinued fight for a long time. Emo­tional, spur-of-the-moment reac­tions to events like these, espe­cially from people who hold nation-wide influence like many NBA ath­letes do, will do little to help. In fact, it may dis­credit the fight for racial equality in this nation. 

As important as awareness of racial inequality in this country is, when it comes to getting the problem solved, money talks. Orga­nizing rallies, cre­ating ad cam­paigns, and even pushing for any kind of leg­islative change, all cost money. If the rest of the season is boy­cotted, the players and the league as a whole, would have sig­nif­i­cantly less funds. 

From the NBA’s tele­vision deals with ABC, ESPN, and TNT alone, the league makes roughly $2.6 billion dollars annually. The bulk of this sum comes through the playoffs. This money is not only fun­neled back into improvement of the league itself, but also goes towards the improvement of Black com­mu­nities. 

In an attempt to “deepen the NBA family’s com­mitment to racial equality and social justice,” the league announced on August 5 that for the next 10 years, each of the league’s 30 teams will donate at least $1 million annually to the newly created NBA Foun­dation. As League Com­mis­sioner Adam Silver put it, the foun­dation “can advance [the league’s] shared goals of cre­ating sub­stantial eco­nomic mobility within the Black com­munity.” The NBA would have dif­fi­culty paying this money now, and in the future, without the revenue gained from the restarted NBA season. 

Even more important in this sit­u­ation, though, is the money made by the players, who are far more involved in issues of social justice than the team owners. Together, the teams in “the Bubble”, where the restarted NBA season is being played, pay their players more than $2.77 billion per year. Those who choose not to play, however, are subject to a cut in their salaries. 

In the most recent meeting of the National Bas­ketball Player’s Asso­ci­ation, which was held after the recent boy­cotted games, the asso­ci­ation voted to keep the season going. This will, however, likely be far from the end of sit­u­a­tions like the one the league found itself in earlier this week. Since 2015, an average of one unarmed Black person has been shot and killed by a police officer every two weeks. Sta­tis­ti­cally, this means that it will happen two to three more times before the con­clusion of the NBA playoffs. Thus, the NBA and NBPA will likely be faced with mul­tiple similar sit­u­a­tions where can­celing the remainder of the season will be brought up as an option.

Due to the money that will be made by con­tinuing the season, as well as the awareness which players can con­tinue to raise by using their platform on national tele­vision, the NBA should con­tinue the restarted season. 

Therefore, assuming that genuine, lasting, social change is the goal of the NBA and its Player’s Asso­ci­ation — as opposed to pow­erful-looking, but oth­erwise empty public ges­tures — the NBA should not con­sider can­celing their season.

 

Christian Peck-Dimit is a sophomore studying English.