Two weeks ago, players from both the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings wore shirts before their game, which read “Accountability. We are one” on one side and #StephonClark on the other. The players were peacefully protesting the murder of Stephon Clark, who was unarmed when shot and killed by Sacramento police. The players put together a PSA that aired during the game and the display was supported by coaches and owners around the league.
Contrast this with the NFL owners’ meetings that were ongoing at the same time – the issue of protests was back in the spotlight. Last football season, that issue turned fans away and pitted players against owners. In the meantime, the NBA is gaining viewers and encouraging its stars to speak comfortably on social issues. According to the Houston Chronicle, players aren’t censored, they don’t have owners or commissioners commenting on their decisions, and there are no protests. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are two of the most outspoken coaches, yet are revered for their leadership when it comes to social issues: from Kevin Love’s mental health piece for The Players’ Tribune, to LeBron James’ vocal support on social issues, to Dwyane Wade’s leadership surrounding gun control in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. What has resulted are productive conversations with real change occurring, and a product on the court that fans have never loved more.
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