LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The NBA and National Basketball Players Association released a joint statement Friday announcing that the NBA playoffs will resume Saturday and that the league and its players will work together on several initiatives to promote voting access, combat social injustice and racial inequality, and advocate for police reform.
“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said in the statement. “We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together — in Orlando and in all NBA team markets — to push for meaningful and sustainable change.”
Among the commitments is the immediate establishment of a social justice coalition — with representation from players, coaches and governors — that will cover a wide array of issues, including increased voting access, promoting civic engagement and advocating for “meaningful police and criminal justice reform.”
In every NBA city where the league’s franchise owns and controls its arena property, team owners will work with local officials to turn those arenas into voting locations for the 2020 general election, giving constituents a way to vote in person during the coronavirus pandemic. If that isn’t possible, there will be an effort to use those facilities in other ways, including as sites to register voters and receive ballots.
Some NBA teams — including the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz — had already announced that their arenas will be available to be used as voting locations in November. The Clippers on Friday announced that the The Forum will serve as a vote center and that people will be able to vote in person or drop off mail-in ballots there from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3.
On this initiative, a statement from More Than a Vote, the nonprofit organization co-founded by LeBron James, read in part, “We stand ready to support the NBPA’s and NBA’s effort to convert every NBA arena possible into a polling location for this fall’s election.
“We know that voting will not end our pain. Voting cannot bring back those killed by the police officers sworn to protect us. Voting cannot erase the scars of slavery and segregation. It cannot change our history, but it can change our future.
“If it couldn’t, those in power wouldn’t be trying so hard to take the right to vote away from us. They wouldn’t be trying so hard to erect barriers to the ballot box.”
The NBA also agreed to work with the players and with its broadcast partners to create advertising that will appear during each NBA playoff game to promote greater civic engagement in national and local elections, and to raise awareness about voting access.
The joint statement was issued two days after the Bucks chose not to play in Wednesday’s playoff game against the Orlando Magic in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Bucks’ decision began a movement that spread not only to the other 13 teams inside the NBA’s bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort but also to several other sports leagues, including the WNBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the NHL.
The statement also followed a series of meetings leading up to Friday’s announcement. The first came Wednesday night and included players and coaches from all 13 teams still participating in the playoffs. There was a second meeting Thursday morning, at which the players voted to resume the season, while the NBA’s board of governors met at the same time.
Finally, there was a meeting Thursday afternoon between representatives from those 13 teams, the owners from those teams plus Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who is chairman of the NBA’s labor relations committee. During that meeting, the sides discussed how the league would return to play and reached an agreement on the initiatives that were announced Friday afternoon.
“It was awesome,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of that initial meeting Wednesday night. “And I don’t even know that that meeting went well. That meeting had a lot of anger, a lot of voices, a lot of emotion. I think I’ve learned long ago that emotion is great, being emotional sometimes is not. [You] know what I mean?
“But it was out there. We got to hear what people felt and thought. So to me, that was very powerful. That’s what I told our guys, the players, that, ‘This is a powerful moment. You guys are learning how powerful you can be,’ and that I was proud of them. But then to come back that next morning, it was amazing, the difference. They got it out, then they could talk. And then the third meeting, now we could work. I just thought the progression of that was absolutely perfect.”
Teams returned to practice Friday in preparation for a return to the court this weekend. Although several teams canceled media availability Friday, Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul, the president of the NBPA, spoke about the decision to return to the court and resume the season.
“I have to give a lot of credit to our players,” Paul said. “It’s been a hard time for everyone. The communication we’ve been having is amazing. I think everyone saw guys just needing to reset, to refocus. And that’s what we did.”
The expectation is that games that had been scheduled to take place Wednesday — Bucks vs. Magic, Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers — would be played Saturday. That would mean games scheduled to take place Thursday — Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics, and Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks — would be played Sunday. From there, the playoffs would resume as previously scheduled.