NBA Players Should Address the Nation on ESPN Tonight Opposite Trump's Speech at the RNC

By Stephen Douglas
An empty NBA court at Disney.
An empty NBA court at Disney. / Pool/Getty Images
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NBA players are currently striking and considering walking away from the NBA Playoffs in protest following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police earlier this week. The Blake shooting was a breaking point for some inside the NBA bubble who were already dealing with the combined pressure of the racial and societal unrest as well as isolation from their friends and families during an unprecedented pandemic (not to mention the usual pressure that comes with the NBA playoffs).

On Wednesday three games were postponed as teams followed the lead of the Milwaukee Bucks. The three games scheduled tonight are also expected to be postponed and players may even vote to cancel the entire season this morning. No matter what they decide, they should not give up their primetime audience on ESPN tonight. Players, with LeBron James, Chris Paul, Giannis Antetokounmpo and whoever else leading, should address the nation tonight and they should do it opposite Donald Trump accepting the nomination for president at the Republican National Convention.

The ratings don't matter, though if they could steal just a little bit of the RNC's already disappointing viewership, it would drive Trump crazy. There's no point in hiding from this confrontation because it is already here. This morning Jared Kushner, the president's unqualified son-in-law, and Marc Short, the Vice President's chief of staff, both dismissed the players protests. It is again the Trump White House vs. the NBA. Trump will be voicing his displeasure with the league no matter what. The players should steer into it.

The thing is, the players are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. They are peacefully protesting. The idea that they aren't being productive or working towards "concrete solutions" is a lie. Even from the bubble, players have been trying to lead. LeBron James started a voting rights group. Chris Paul made sure all his teammates were registered and challenged others to do the same. The Bucks demanded the Wisconsin legislature reconvene. The league (as well as the WNBA) has given the players a platform to speak out every day and they have used it, but there is only so much these citizens can do.

Now it's on the owners. Some of the richest, most well-connected people in America. They wield their influence when they need to for new stadiums. Now is the time when they need to help the people paying for those stadiums.

Police murdering George Floyd in the early days of the pandemic lit a fuse. Protests of all kinds have been going on ever since. With the shooting of Jacob Blake, NBA players appear ready to escalate things. If not now, when?

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