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NBA commissioner Adam Silver trying to satisfy players' concerns for social justice

NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news

NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before an NBA preseason basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Saitama, near Tokyo. Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong

If there appears to be a rift between the NBA’s season resumption plan and the coalition of players seeking to focus instead on social justice and exert the power they hold, NBA commissioner Adam Silver seems intent on bringing the two goals together.

Silver appeared on ESPN Monday and then Tuesday in an internet roundtable with Magic Johnson, former player Caron Butler and Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, and in both appearances he tried to stress the support for players who are trying to use their celebrity to help in what they see as a tipping point in a social justice movement fueled by the death of George Floyd.

While Silver is seeking peace, National Basketball Players Association vice president Kyrie Irving has taken the hammer that the players have right now as owners are hoping to kick-start the revenue stream and gone as far as, according to a Daily News report, telling Brooklyn Nets teammates that players could start their own league.

In Tuesday’s appearance, part of the NBA Together series, Silver said that players could achieve their goals on the stage that will draw a huge audience beginning next month when the league hopes to resume the season that was suspended after games of March 11 because of the coronavirus.

“Let’s make sure returning to basketball a larger, broader message about social equality, racial issues, are not somehow lost in the discussion,” Silver said.

“This is not easy work. This isn’t an endemic issue. This is a long-standing issue. And as I said, it needs to be addressed in a sort of multiplicity of ways.

"But my sense is there’ll be enormous attention focused on the league and the players down in Orlando. Again, I certainly don’t want to take the other side of the issue to suggest to some young men that if they choose to make a choice not to play in the NBA and think that they can do more dealing directly with social issues I respect that.”

The NBA provided teams with a memo Tuesday outlining all of the plans for the resumption of the season, giving details of what life in the bubble will be like — hotels for teams, amenities for players, facilities available and how the breakdown of team personnel allowed in the bubble will be constructed, as well as testing protocols and a schedule for arrival, quarantine and the start of games.

But it remains to be seen if the coalition of players led by Irving and Lakers guard Avery Bradley is willing to play basketball right now in the midst of what they see as an opportunity to create real change in their communities, but also in the league with hiring practices for minority front office and coaching roles.

“Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn’t enough,” Bradley said in an interview with ESPN. “Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?

“We don’t need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put in to the works.”

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