KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Symbolic gesture had not been enough. Players inside the NBA’s bubble in Florida wanted to make real change, to take real action.
After three days of postponed games, sparked by protest from the Milwaukee Bucks refusing to take the court on Wednesday, and long discussions between players, coaches, league executives and team owners, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced they had come to an agreement on actions that would be taken by the league and teams and that the 2019-20 playoff games would resume on Saturday.
“We’re going to continue to make change with action.” — OKC Thunder guard and NBPA president Chris Paul
“We’re going to continue to make change with action,” Oklahoma City Thunder guard and NBPA president Chris Paul vowed on Friday.
In a joint statement the NBA and NBPA detailed some of the ways the league will promote civic engagement and fight to combat social injustice, including the formation of a social justice coalition within the league and the teams using their arenas as polling sites to increase voter accessibility.
The statement reads as follows:
We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality. Among others, the attendees included player and team representatives of all 13 teams in Orlando. All parties agreed to resume NBA playoff games on Saturday, Aug. 29 with the understanding that the league together with the players will work to enact the following commitments:
1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.
3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.
These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community.
We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together — in Orlando and in all NBA team markets — to push for meaningful and sustainable change.
The Utah Jazz-Denver Nuggets series will pick back up on Sunday with Game 6 scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT and locally on AT&T SportsNet.
A large number of the teams that remain in the bubble held practice on Friday in preparation for the playoffs resuming. Saturday’s slate of games includes first-round contests between the Bucks vs. Orlando Magic (Game 5), Thunder vs. Houston Rockets (Game 5) and the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers (Game 5), all of which were originally scheduled for Wednesday.
The Utah Jazz, like many teams on Friday, chose not to hold media availability following practice. The Bucks released a brief statement explaining their decision not to speak with reporters.
“As we return to the court today, our team focus will be on our overall performance and well-being,” the statement read.
Paul noted the historic nature of what the NBA is accomplishing and also that Friday marked the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, and expressed frustration at, decades later, still combatting the same issues surrounding both events.
“Fifteen years in this league and I’ve never seen anything like it. What we’re doing right now in our league is huge. Guys are tired, and I mean tired. When I say tired, we’re not physically tired. We’re tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.” — Chris Paul
“It’s definitely been an emotional past couple of days, not only for myself but for everyone,” he said before describing the weight of what took place in the NBA bubble over the last few days. “Fifteen years in this league and I’ve never seen anything like it. What we’re doing right now in our league is huge. Guys are tired, and I mean tired. When I say tired, we’re not physically tired. We’re tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.”
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was one of the coaches who attended each of the meetings over the past few days as one of the coaching representatives, said that more than anything he’s proud of how the players conducted themselves and how they were able to take their frustration and turn it into something that has a real chance of making a difference.
“A lot of us here are sick of hearing, ‘keep the conversation going,’” he said. “Action is what everybody wants, it’s what everybody wants to see and what everybody wants to be a part of, constructive action. Yesterday’s conversation between the players and the governors were strong steps towards decisive immediate action that can chip away at a problem that is 400-plus years old.”
The most notable decision made during the many meetings on Wednesday and Thursday was the players and NBA board of governors agreeing that teams would move immediately to open up arenas or other team-owned properties as polling and voter registration sites.
The Utah Jazz on Friday morning announced that they would join a growing number of teams who had already committed to using their home arenas as a voting location on Election Day.
In addition to the use of NBA arenas as polling sites, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers spoke to the importance of the creation of a coalition that includes not just players and not just coaches, but members from all areas of the league. With that group the hope is that the league will receive outside help to assist the players, coaches and league executives who are working to have legislation passed that will impact racial injustice and criminal justice reform.
“This has to continue, and I think that’s why the coalition is so important,” he said. “This is not just about today, something is going to happen next week, next month, and we have to have a group in place to understand how to handle that and understand how to help the players process through it. We have to have a group that is working on legislation all the time. Not just U.S., but state to state legislation.”
Though Wednesday night’s initial meeting of players and coaches became heated with raw emotions and frustrations, leaving many to wonder if the NBA would be able to resume the playoffs, with all teams remaining inside the bubble, the players decided that the visibility provided by the media attention at the bubble would be too beneficial to pass up.
“We understand how strong our voice is, how powerful our voice is and ultimately decided that if we go away from this stage we don’t necessarily have the same platform,” Paul said. “We stood in solidarity and we’re going to continue to play but we’re also going to continue to make sure that our voices are heard.”
The Bucks and Magic will start things off on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MDT on ESPN.