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Activism in the NBA: More than rhetoric


Photo of LeBron James shortly before the start of a game between his Lakers and the Denver Nuggets on August 10, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The court displays the Black Lives Matter poster.


NBA players are picking up on Colin Kaepernick’s legacy with his protests during the national anthem, which helped raise awareness of police brutality, in an effort that has deeply impacted the league since its season kicked off last month. happened in Florida amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Basketball players want to go even further than Kaepernick did. The idea is to generate a movement capable of breaking down the barriers imposed by the system and changing the laws, not just changing people’s minds.

One of his targets has been the vote, with initiatives like More Than A Vote (More Than A Vote), promoted by LeBron James.

“There are people who are listening to us,” LeBron said recently. “We are going to continue with our campaign.”

Increasing constituency participation can be a tangible legacy of these socially conscious players seeking concrete change.

According to the Pew Research Center, there was a significant increase in the participation of African Americans in the 2018 midterm elections, which was 51.4%, almost 11 points more than in 2014 and after registering a decline in 2016 for the first time in two decades.

More Than A Vote has been trying to restore the right to vote to express voters and to get voting centers in states where access to those centers is limited and early voting is restricted.

In states like Florida, for example, More Than a Vote donated $ 100,000 to local organizations that help pay the money owed by expresses who cannot regain their voting rights until they pay their fines.

These efforts seek to counteract the cynicism about a system that tries to keep the black electorate away from the polls and the fear that postal votes will not be counted.

Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit and Sacramento have already joined the campaign.

These initiatives encouraged NBA players to use their platforms on social media and in their interviews to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and other African-Americans killed by the police while promoting the vote.

“The union and the vote give you a lot of strength,” said Celtics player Jaylen Brown. “You have to take advantage of it.”

The folks who collaborate with LeBron recruited African American sports figures like the NBA stars, retired football players like Patrick Mahomes and Alvin Kamara, and artists like Kevin Hart.

This group is not content with encouraging people to register to vote, but also tries to break down the barriers to do so.

Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California, said that while symbolic gestures like putting up Black Lives Matter posters in NBA stadiums and writing slogans about social justice on jerseys are positive, but they are not enough.

“It’s not the same as taking concrete action,” said Boyd, who has written a lot about race in sports and popular culture.

LeBron gave up wearing any of the 29 NBA-approved slogans on his jersey.

“I congratulate those who decide to put something on their back,” LeBron explained. “But it is something that does not fit within my mission, my objective.”

Len Elmore, who played ten seasons in the NBA and teaches a course on athlete activism and social justice in sports, says he’s encouraging that players don’t limit themselves to rhetoric.

“You try to use the system to your advantage. And that’s what they are doing, ”said Elmore, who was also a commentator before attending Harvard Law School and graduating from law.

Elmore opined that More Than A Vote “is one of the most creative initiatives” ever tried to promote social justice.