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NBA and WNBA Lead The Social Justice Fight in Sports, Remain Steps Ahead of Other Professionals Sports Organizations

By: Caleb Brown, Staff Reporter

Photo Courtesy of Slate

After the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 23, 2020, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) took their stances on social justice to the next level.

The NBA and WNBA are always the first professional sports associations to take a stand in the battle for social justice. With their respective seasons continuing in different isolation bubbles in Florida, the conversation about the injustices Black and other people of color face in the U.S. needed to continue.

The WNBA dedicated its season to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed in her home, by the Louisville Metro Police Department, in March of this year. The same night of this dedication, players from the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm basketball teams left the court while the national anthem was playing. All of these players were wearing shirts with the words “Say Her Name”, which is a campaign to bring attention to the women who have lost their lives at the hands of police officers.

These WNBA players have inspired many people nationwide to continue this social fight for change. One of the people influenced by the WNBA player’s movement is Jayla Thornton, a senior shooting guard for the Howard University Women’s Basketball team.

“To fight for something this vital, with no fear of the consequences from people that may rank above them, is inspiring and sparks something in me to do my part with the power that I have,” she said in an interview.

“It reassures me that all it takes is one, and others will follow, leaving me encouraged to use my platform to fight for the greater issue,” she continued.

After the shooting of Jacob Blake, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their game against the Orlando Magic that was scheduled for Aug. 23, 2020, and other NBA players and teams followed suit.

The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers all shortly followed the Bucks lead and boycotted their respective games, as well.

Led by LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors stormed out of a meeting with NBA executives after deciding to boycott the rest of the NBA playoffs in response to Jacob Blake shooting.

Although they later changed this decision, the players from both teams demanded that team owners take more action during times of social unrest in America.

Anthony Davis, of the Los Angeles Lakers, went as far as saying “we won’t play” if the owners don’t hold up their end on the social reform front.

Men’s Basketball senior guard Nate Garvey, says For someone whose life revolves around sports, it was a good feeling to see that so many high profile individuals were not disregarding the real important issue going on. 

Garvey echoed a similar sentiment to Thornton that, “It provides hope and inspiration for those who look up to athletes, to fight and speak up for what is right.”

Amid a racially tense period and unprecedented time, some players, like Chris Paul, still find time to bring much-needed recognition to HBCUs. While Paul has been at the forefront of the NBA’s fight for social justice, he’s also sported different HBCU apparel each game night in the NBA bubble. Some gear he’s worn is a part of LegacyHistoryPride, a fashion company founded by Howard University’s student Tahir Murray.

I spoke to Murray about how it felt to see Paul wear his gear as a way to bring recognition to HBCUs and he said, “For all these kids to see their favorite superstars… speak out on HBCU culture and the social fight going on goes a long way”— adding that he believes what Chris Paul is showing us is “much deeper than basketball.”

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