NBA, Players Agree to Continue Season and Start New Social Justice Coalition

Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel together around the Black Lives Matter logo on the court during the national anthem before the start of an NBA basketball game July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

(CN) — The National Basketball League may be playing in a “bubble,” but the actions and comments of several NBA players and coaches are making an impact around the country.

On Friday, the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington, the NBA and the player’s union issued a joint statement announcing that one of the conditions for resuming the NBA playoffs is to convert their arenas to polling places for the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“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,” the statement says. “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.”

The Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons already had plans in place to use their arenas as polling places, with the Utah Jazz announcing Friday that they would do the same.

The NBA season came to a halt when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States in March and resumed a month ago, with all teams playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, also known as “the bubble.”

Players have been allowed to don “Black Lives Matter” on their jerseys in place of their names, and “Black Lives Matter” is also painted on the court.

But on Wednesday, in the wake of the police shooting of 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin that left him paralyzed, the Bucks boycotted their playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

The Bucks’ protest had a ripple effect, with the rest of the NBA teams also deciding not to play their games. Soon after word spread of the NBA postponing its playoff games, several Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams followed suit.

NBA players held meetings Wednesday and Thursday to determine how to move forward. The Los Angeles teams, the Lakers and Clippers, reportedly voted Wednesday night to cancel the rest of the season.

The owners, who held a virtual meeting on Thursday, used NBA Hall of Famer and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan as a liaison between players and owners.

The players and owners also agreed to establish a social justice coalition “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” as well as using advertising spots in the playoff games to encourage “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,” the statement says. “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.”

Representatives for the NBPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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