Lou Williams was among the NBA players who shared their thoughts as the conversation about whether or not to play ball continued online Friday. Earlier in the evening, nearly 100 NBA players reportedly joined a call to discuss whether to resume the stalled season, as planned, at the end of July in Orlando.
On Instagram, the Clippers’ veteran guard suggested that the league’s proposal to resume the season, as approved last week by the NBA’s Board of Governors and the players’ association board of representatives, could detract from the moment and the movement toward racial justice. Since George Floyd was killed while in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis, many NBA players have been out front, protesting police abuse and social injustice.
Never shy about dialoguing on social media, Williams responded to a question posed by a fan: “How and why would it be a problem continuing the season because of racial injustice? I’m (confused), if anything sports has always made racial tension better, and many ways (brought) people together.”
Wrote Williams: “And we are fighting for radical change. Sports has been a healing factor, there we agree. In this climate … it’s a distraction. I mean look at your position. You’re dying to get back in the house and drink a beer and watch us hoop opposed to being outside fighting for your equality. That’s just one aspect to look at.”
Kyrie Irving reportedly led Friday’s discussion, according to multiple reports that characterized the six-time All-Star’s message as an impassioned plea for players to make a stand for social reform by sitting out the resumption of the season.
Kyrie Irving on players call Friday, per sources: “I’m willing to give up everything I have (for social reform).”
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 13, 2020
The Lakers’ Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley also reportedly spoke up on the call, according to the Athletic’s Shams Charania. But Danny Green — the players’ union rep for the Lakers — was not on it, telling USA Today’s Mark Medina he couldn’t get on and that he thought a call was happening Saturday.
From Green’s perspective, there are benefits to taking the stage again: “When we do go to Orlando, the media outlets and playing on that stage, if you use it wisely the right way you can push forward and can continue the movement even in a better forum.”
Former Clipper Austin Rivers wrote on Instagram that he appreciated Irving’s position, but he thinks providing a distraction could be a positive thing.
He posted his comments beneath a post from The Score, which quoted Irving as saying, “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the (bull).”
“Us coming back would be putting money in all our pockets,” countered Rivers, who is now a member of the Houston Rockets. “With this money you could help out even more people and continue to give more importantly your time and energy towards the (Black Lives Matter) movement. Which I’m 100% on board with. Because change needs to happen.
“But also … there are plenty of NBA players I know who need them paychecks. 99% of the NBA hasn’t made the money a guy like Kyrie has. Not to mention NBA basketball is predominantly African American … and a lot of our audience is too. Us (providing) entertainment and hope for kids is important. Also keeping SOME kids indoors and watching basketball games on tv instead of maybe going out and getting into trouble (due to the unfair and unequal environments a lot of African American kids are placed in) is important too.”
Rivers continued, saying that walking away from the season could serve as a setback if the league’s collective bargaining agreement ends up voided, which, he wrote, “would really put NBA basketball behind. Possibly even canceling next year. I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement. It’s admirable and inspiring. I’m with it … but in the right way and not at the cost of the whole NBA and players’ careers. We can do both.”
The Clippers’ Patrick Patterson appears to agree, adding two words on an Instagram story: “Let’s play.” Also, before Friday’s call, the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma and Jared Dudley tweeted they both wanted to play.
When the season was suspended March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Lakers (49-14) and Clippers (44-20) were in first and second place, respectively, in the Western Conference, with both squads believing a championship was within reach.
— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 13, 2020
Austin Rivers on Kyrie Irving, restarting the season: “I love Kyrie’s passion towards helping this movement…I’m with it…but in the right way & not at the cost of the whole NBA & players careers. We can do both. We can play & we can help change the way black lives are lived.” pic.twitter.com/GMmyVz9nEF
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) June 13, 2020