The greatest task of OKC Thunder guard Chris Paul’s NBPA tenure will be helping to create an NBA social reform plan
Monday night Adam Silver told ESPN restarting the season in Orlando would entail an enormous sacrifice stating it may not be for everyone. The commish emphasized the NBA would honor every player’s choice without repercussions (aside from the loss of pay for games missed). This latter comment resonated given the contingent of players led by Kyrie Irving who is considering sitting out the season. OKC Thunder and NBPA president Chris Paul participated in the Friday conference call to provide insight on the financial impacts of not resuming the season.
In our recent article TI noted player issues of the group hesitant to return although keeping the emphasis on social reform was the key concern.
On Tuesday, the NBA sent teams and players a comprehensive safety, health and guidelines for the restart to teams and players. The manual doesn’t include a specific section on how the league will work with players to ensure the Disney bubble will keep the Black Lives Matter movement a priority. However, the league is aware of the importance of this issue and is working with the NBPA.
OKC Thunder guard Chris Paul faces greatest task of NBPA tenure:
If you’ve caught any of the sports shows recently many former players have noted the current NBPA and league relationship is the best in history. The recent uprising of the players’ coalition put that thinking into question. This mostly due to the fact Kyrie Irving serves on the executive board as one of the vice-presidents and voted in favor of a return but then worked behind the scenes with a different objective to sit out the season.
During the call on Friday when close to 100 players discussed the issues, Chris Paul joined the call along with other NBPA executive members like Andre Iguodala, Kyle Lowry, and Garrett Temple.
While the overriding goal was for the players to work collectively and have a common voice CP3 and his VP’s were on hand to caution of the financial implications sitting out the season would entail. That’s not to say Paul or Iggy aren’t equally invested in improving social injustice. Rather, their desires are to effectively accomplish both goals by using the Orlando restart to keep the BLM movement top of mind while also ensuring the health of the league remains as strong as possible.
Although there hasn’t been a formal league statement presumably there will be a follow-up document on how this can be accomplished. Many analysts pointed out there was uncertainty about what the coalition was specifically requesting. To that end, Avery Bradley (the other NBA player leading the coalition group) offered three tangible changes the coalition would like the association to make.
Three main points the NBA Players Coalition are looking for:
- A commitment to improving the hiring practices for front-office positions to include minorities. Key positions noted were head coaches, front office personnel, and league office staff. This so the people who make the decisions are a better reflection of the racial makeup of the players within the league.
- Increased partnerships with minority vendors and businesses within games as well as donations to businesses and organizations in black communities.
- Support from the ownership group in terms of more financial contributions that promote racial equality and justice reform causes (such as what Michael Jordan and Mark Cuban have done).
Moving forward, the stakeholders will undoubtedly discuss how to keep social reform and racial injustice issues prevalent in Orlando. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated offered some compelling input in his article.
Imagine hearing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” after “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals in Walt Disney World. The Eastern Conference champs are standing side by side with one fist in the air wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts. The Western Conference champs are kneeling on the hardwood wearing T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter.”
Aside from the suggestions Avery Bradley outlines and the greater optics Spears suggests there are numerous ways the league and NBPA can accomplish their goal.
Time could be afforded either after games in press conferences, during the half time break, or via filmed segments to be shown during games. For example, LeBron James led ‘More Than a Vote” initiative. This organization will educate on getting registered and voting but more importantly fight voter suppression issues.
And, as Spears suggests the association could insist sponsors who air commercials include a socially conscious message.
The big question is whether the NBA can deliver on the items the coalition is seeking before players head to the Disney bubble. Certainly, the first point can’t be accomplished prior to play resuming but the league could agree to implement a specific plan and direction in that regard.
The second and third points are easier to accomplish. As noted above there are ways to incorporate actions on the court and via filmed segments during the game, at breaks, and in the post-game media sessions. The easiest of the three requests is the last ask which is for the ownership group to designate funds specifically to programs for social reform and to help promote black businesses.
There is a multitude of ways the NBA and NBPA can ensure the Black Lives Matter movement becomes an integral part of the Orlando bubble. Given the June 24th opt-out date, the players will want to receive a formal commitment from the league prior to this date.
As NBPA president Chris Paul will be actively involved representing the players and pushing the mandate forward. The OKC Thunder guard has worked incredibly hard during the hiatus and throughout his tenure to forge a strong bond with Adam Silver and the league brain trust.
The Point God has accomplished many things on the hardwood including leading his OKC Thunder into a playoff position this season. But, more than any career accomplishment his efforts to help move this social reform plan forward is undoubtedly his most important task to date.
When Paul retires will his efforts on the hardwood or off it be the thing he is best remembered for? If that seems like an easy question to answer consider how athletes like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are remembered. But if a plan is implemented that changes how the NBA conducts business well into the future his role in affecting that change could be his greatest career accomplishment.
Presumably, the next document the league and NBPA provide sends out will address these issues specifically.