The NBA season is closer than you think, and since the last one ended, the political climate of the league has shifted dramatically. It started with Carmelo Anthony calling on his fellow players to put their fame to better use, and backing it up himself by organizing community meetings with police. As the season approaches, many are wondering what will be different.
Of course, with Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest making serious waves in the NFL, and the NBA having a richer history of social engagement, additional expectations have been heaped onto players to take public stances on social issues. Unfortunately, standing for the national anthem is in the NBA’s rulebook, so the NBPA has promised to find alternate means of positive engagement.
Particularly noteworthy is this section:
The league and the Players’ Association, working together, have begun developing substantive ways for us to come together and take meaningful action. These ideas are based on the actions many of you have already taken or supported, including convening conversations in NBA markets to engage young people, parents, community leaders and law enforcement in a candid dialogue; using our game to bring people together and build bonds of trust in our communities; and supporting mentoring and career development programs that help bring economic opportunity to young people of color.
The last two items on that list are things that NBA players have already been doing for years, and there’s nothing political about them, as noble as the aims may be. It’s that first part — trying to replicate the community meeting Melo led — that should be cause for excitement. The more police departments actually engage with and talk to the communities they serve, the greater the possibility they may try to de-escalate and handle situations humanely rather than violently. It’s a hope, at least.
It’s still a fair bet to see players kneel for the national anthem when the season begins, but putting money and time directly into communities is just as important, if not more so.