To Play Or Not To Play?

Will sports leagues resuming take attention away from the most important issues at hand?

A pivotal moment for all professional sports leagues has sprung amongst the many other issues our world is facing right now. The idea of competing against one another in a game for a trophy feels extremely out of place at the current moment in time.

Sports tend to drive focus and talking points among so many social interactions. Sports also provide a platform for every athlete, reporter, and league official to use their voice in a powerful manner.

“I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families…No Basketball till we get things resolved.”

-Dwight Howard

After hearing Lakers Dwight Howard, support what Nets Star Kyrie Irving has said about the possible NBA restart, it is becoming increasingly clear that the season could resume with only a fraction of its players competing. Irving, who happens to be one of the vice presidents of the players association, led a phone call with more than 80 players listening in and giving their take on the situation.

“I’m willing to give up everything I have [for social reform],”

– Kyrie Irving

It is fair to assume that these two are not the only athletes that would support not playing despite whatever their respective league decides. I am the biggest proponent of social change and working towards eliminating racial injustices, however I disagree with Irving’s view that having no season at all would keep the focus more on the most important matters at hand.

Nobody is quite sure what this “bubble scenario” would look like for the NBA, but it is clear that players would no doubt have microphones galore in their face. These guys are criticized and picked apart for everything they do and don’t say already, now preaching their message while everybody is tuned in only builds them a grander pedestal. 

Nothing has been more advantageous to the impact players create than Super Bowl MVP, Drew Brees retracting his former statement about the national anthem. You could suggest this began a domino effect that led to NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell publicly apologizing to players for, “not listening earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”

Unfortunately, we do live in a world where the most famous stars can more or less skew the opinion of an entire league and all of its fans. Lebron James, who had his Lakers sitting atop the Western Conference Standings before the world turned upside down, told the New York Times, “We feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door. How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”

The Brooklyn Nets currently sit as the seventh seed in the East. With that said, I am not stating that I think players views would change in an alternate situation, instead simply pointing out an underlying motive that could sway this fragile moment we seem to be looming in.

As fans consume multiple playoff atmospheres at once, with the NHL and NBA announcing their plans, I cannot stress this point enough: This cannot take attention away from the judicial and systemic change of which we are on the verge.

It will become our responsibility as fans along with players, coaches, and league officials to keep our energy and conversation dialed in on the topics that will bring about genuine change.

Playing or not playing, the change will come about eventually, however these gigantic brands have the opportunity to push the conversation to another level. 

Dear major sports league commissioners and athletes, please don’t starve this movement, instead fuel it.

References Used: Sports Illustrated, New York Times, & The New York Post

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