The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night to reach the second round of the playoffs, but LeBron James had much more important things on his mind when speaking to reporters post-game.
“We are trying to create change. We can’t lose sight of what the main thing is,” James said in his first comments since the NBA went on a three-day strike to protest anti-Black racism in the United States.
The strike was sparked by the Milwaukee Bucks, who on Wednesday refused to take the court for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic and instead stayed in their locker room and called Wisconsin government leaders to demand justice for Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis.
That action by the Bucks sparked a collective pause across the sports world and led to NBA players and owners developing some concrete plans to begin chipping away at the systemic racism that exists in society. This includes opening NBA arenas to be used as polling stations for elections, establishing a social justice coalition made up of players, coaches and governors, and developing special advertisements to run during games that promote civic engagement.
On Saturday, the Staples Center — home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings — announced that it would be a voting centre for the Nov. 3 U.S. federal election.
James himself has a long track record of working towards a more just society, including opening his “I Promise School” in 2018 and his newly established “More Than A Vote” program which combats voter disenfranchisement. That’s why getting a plan in place involving all teams and all players was important to James before he wanted play to resume.
“It’s not just about me but it’s about every other player in this league and how we continue to shed light on things that are going on in our community, things that are going on around America, things that are going on around the world and to have this platform, the NBA platform,” James said.
“As the Golden State Warriors said for years and years and years, there is strength in numbers. And that is the case here.”
While it’s too early to say how much meaningful change this moment in sports history will bring, James is confident it will lead to better days.
“Hopefully, the past couple days will make a change for the greater good and the future,” James said. “The bubble season will never be forgotten when it comes to sports… but obviously this moment is so much bigger than us playing basketball. Hopefully, years on down the line when America is in a better place, that you can look back on to this moment and be like ‘that was one of the catapults that got it going.’”