No, the NBA will not “stick to sports” and neither should anyone else right now.
The separation of sport and state has been common for far too long, but the NBA, refreshingly, has emphatically put an end to that, even when other leagues have remained content with the status quo, or chosen to promote narrowminded viewpoints.
Those in the world of sport, especially athletes and coaches, have massive platforms on which they can voice their opinions regarding worthwhile topics.
Right now, those topics are very much hitting home and having a direct effect. To go on living in a bubble with the escapist mindset that sports are a safe space is flatout ignoring the harsh realities many across the world are facing at the moment.
The NBA gets many things right and it’s no surprise their collective reaction to United States President Donald Trump and his recent “Muslim ban” has again been right on the money.
There is no appropriate response to Trump’s preposterous executive order other than sadness, anger and disapproval.
Many around the NBA voiced those exact feelings over the past few days as coaches and players have been unafraid to take a stand and pick a side.
Doc Rivers, Stan Van Gundy, Steve Kerr and of course, Gregg Popovich, are some of the coaches who’ve been vocal with their criticisms of Trump, while players like Luol Deng, Jeremy Lin and Kenneth Faried have spoken up.
The comments of Toronto Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry may have been the most representative of the NBA’s general disposition to not mince words.
Lowry, when asked about the immigration ban, replied: “It’s bull****. I think it’s absolute bull****.” Even when asked by a reporter if he wanted to respond again, but this time without curse words, Lowry unapologetically stood pat.
The NBA as a whole, has similarly stood firm. Compare that to the reaction, or often lack thereof, we’ve seen from the NFL and even international football, and it’s abundantly clear the NBA is head and shoulders above every other major league when it comes to not just taking a stand, but standing for what’s right.
Several in the NFL have aligned themselves with Trump in some way or another – Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh, Rex Ryan – but there have also been many who’ve simply stayed mum due to an overbearing culture of avoiding “distractions”.
Whether it’s the result of such a relatively short season or a regimented approach, NFL teams are obsessed with keeping as low of a profile in the media as possible.
In football, you don’t often see or hear players speaking out with anything other than boring platitudes. It’s somewhat surprising considering the sport is such a global game and rich in diversity, but you can make a case that a lack of higher education from players being thrown into the academy system at such a young age is at least partly to blame.
It isn’t just a racial issue when it comes to the American leagues, but it’s hard to ignore that the NBA has a higher percentage of African Americans than the NFL, while being far more diverse – openingday rosters featured a record 113 international players from 41 countries and territories.
Whatever the reason, how the NBA has handled itself in the face of heavy social issues is admirable and puts other leagues to shame. Stick to sports? Not anymore.
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