Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams, who called sports in this climate “a distraction,” is still working through if it’s a good idea for the NBA to restart now and is “50-50” on players doing so, he said on a virtual chat Friday via ESPN.
Williams is concerned, as other players are, that games will take away from the work being done in the Black Lives Matter movement during a time without live entertainment and millions of Americans still not working due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Williams describes distraction of playing
“For us, the only benefit of us not playing is to keep the focus on the fight. And with that being said, this [return] is in six weeks. ... In six weeks, the world may need some healing. They may need us to be on the floor. But if more black kids or black adults or any adults that's dealing with police brutality are getting killed, and we are still outraged, I don't know if it is in our best interest to suit up.
“Because it looks like that we don't care. If we do suit up — and we are having conversations behind closed doors — how much of this platform can we really use? Can we get a Black Lives Matter patch on our jersey? Can our jerseys say Black Lives Matter? Can the court say Black Lives Matter? So we can use that platform to the best of our abilities. Honestly, it is hard to call. I'm 50-50 (on playing), to be honest with you."
Williams added that it’s the “first time in history all 50 states have had people outside protesting for one cause” and adding live basketball to that for the first time in four months might take away from the message.
“We want to be an added help to the cause,” he said.
Challenges of speaking in Orlando
One thing bounced around by Williams was the idea that players could speak to issues, specifically continuing the Black Lives Matter movement, during pre- and post-game interviews while they’re in Orlando. It would be similar in a way to media blackouts conducted by WNBA players last year.
But, Williams said, that would only shine a light on the stars, such as LeBron James who reportedly believes he can continue playing and focusing on racial justice activism has he has done throughout his career.
“So that mutes a lot of guys that have opinions that they can use in the real world. So what does that look like for the eighth guy or the 10th guy on the bench that has an intelligent idea, that has intelligent things to say, but he doesn't have a platform that a Lou Williams or Kawhi [Leonard] or any of these guys are going to have.”
It’s also unclear what the media presence will be at Disney for the games. Will reporters attend and be in the NBA bubble? Will they interview in person after games, or do it via video conference calls afterward? If that’s the case, will it be conducted that way with no journalists allowed on site? These are all questions players are working through as they make decisions.
Players pondering opting out of season
Williams wrote in a tweet he “never said I wasn’t gonna play.”
No headline NBA player has so far definitely said he won’t play in the restart in order to focus on the frontlines of the movement. Atlanta Dream star Renee Montgomery did announce she will skip her WNBA season, following in the track made by Maya Moore two offseasons ago.
NBA players are discussing ways to include the season restart and the movement, such as the Black Lives Matter on the court. Brooklyn Nets’ forward Garrett Temple spoke about that in a Juneteenth panel on voting, justice and freedom.
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