While officially the NBA’s players association signed off on the plan to restart the 2020-21 season in Orlando, developments in recent days indicate there seem to be major differences of opinion among individual players about whether restarting the season with a bubble tournament in Orlando is the right move at this particular time.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams took to social media to express his concern that the NBA getting back in action will ultimately be a distraction from current efforts to promote equality and justice for all in society.
Williams wrote in a comment response on Instagram Friday “...and we are fight for a radical change. Sports has been a healing factor, there we agree. In this climate...it’s a distraction. I mean look at your position. You’re dying to get back in the house and drink a beer and watch us hoop [as] opposed to being outside fighting for your equality. That’s just one aspect to look at.”
Nationwide protests in recent weeks after the killing of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody in Minneapolis, has appeared to mark a potential turning point in both American history and black history. Williams himself has already pledged to donate $25,000 in bail funds for protesters fighting for racial justice.
The larger NBA context is that players seem divided over restarting, with that information bubbling up over the last 48 hours. Some reports covered Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving as a “disruptor” to sow discord in preventing a restart, Irving himself unable to play in Orlando as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Former Clipper Garrett Temple argued black players getting paid millions is more significant than protesting unless laws are changed, and another former Clipper, Austin Rivers, argued a distraction was necessary so black youths don’t get into the kind of trouble that would perpetuate the cycle of police brutality.
Suddenly, a plan for the NBA to play that seemed nailed on does not seem as set, and whether the discussions taking place between players is possibly a precursor to a widespread boycott remains to be seen.
After Williams’ initial comments were publicized Saturday, the player offered up more on his Twitter account to clarify his point.
I never said I wasn’t gonna play. But everyday all we see on espn is NBA coming back. On cnn I see another black man killed by police last night. I don’t expect you to understand cause u don’t have a platform. So borrow mine. Say something that’ll make mom proud. Go https://t.co/QkbpHq9Ppg— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) June 13, 2020
Williams wrote in response to a tweet, “I never said I wasn’t gonna play. But everyday all we see on ESPN is NBA coming back. On CNN I see another black man killed by police last night. I don’t expect you to understand [because you] don’t have a platform. So borrow mine. Say something that’ll make mom proud. Go.”
He had a second response shortly after, calling out Bleacher Report for making a social media graphic that he said took his comments out of context.
Y’all stop trying to tell me how to do a job u never did lol. If we had a game today and u leave a protest to watch it. That’s a distraction. Any questions? And bleacher report. Y’all make sure u give my quotes context when I speak. Be cool. Keep fightin— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) June 13, 2020
He wrote: “Y’all stop trying to tell me how to do a job you never did lol. If we had a game today and you leave a protest to watch it, that’s a distraction. Any questions? And Bleacher Report: Y’all make sure you give my quotes context when I speak. Be cool. Keep fighting.”
So Williams, like he said, hasn’t said he isn’t playing when the NBA restarts, but clearly current events have given him some misgivings at the very least. It sounds like a fluid situation many players are contending with at the moment, and it remains to be seen what will happen for these players, and the NBA, from here.