LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — NBA players want change that makes their communities safer. They want people to vote — hopefully in their home arenas.
And they want to keep playing basketball.
Teams returned to the court Friday after the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed on commitments that made players comfortable continuing.
An emotional Chris Paul, the union president, detailed the events of the previous two days, when players upset by the latest police shooting of a Black man left them considering leaving the Disney campus and going home.
“We’re all hurt, we’re all tired of just seeing the same thing over and over again and everybody just expects us to be OK just because we get paid great money,” Paul said. “We’re human, we have real feelings and I’m glad that we got a chance to get in a room and talk with one another and not just cross paths and say good luck in your game today.”
All 13 teams remaining in the postseason scheduled practice Friday, though some declined to speak with reporters. Games are to resume Saturday.
During meetings among players and with coaches and owners, players discussed the need to go beyond words and create more actions, which were detailed in a joint statement by the league and the NBPA.
Team owners who also control their arena property will work with local officials to turn the building into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for safe, in-person voting.
The players and the league will immediately establish a social justice coalition, made up of players, coaches and owners, that will focus on issues such as voting access and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
And the league and players will work with TV networks to create advertising spots during the remainder of the postseason to promote greater engagement in the election process and their communities.
“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,” the joint statement read.
“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.”
Play stopped Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t take the court for their playoff game against Orlando, showing their frustration with the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin and acts of racial injustice.
Games were postponed the last two days before a meeting between owners and players Thursday in which an agreement to resume was reached.
Paul said he’d never seen anything like the events of the previous days during his 15 years in the league. He also spoke with Blake’s father.
“We understand how strong our voice is, how powerful our voice is and ultimately we decided if we go away from this stage we don’t necessarily have that same platform so we stood in solidarity,” Paul said. “We’re going to continue to play but we’re also going to continue to make sure that our voices are heard.”