Players and coaches from both the Boston Celtics and the Golden StateWarriors, are using the attention given to the NBA Finals, as a jumping-offpoint to bring added attention to societal issues such as gun violence andWNBA star Brittney Griner’s detainment in a Russian jail.
When it comes to the NBA, there is no bigger stage than the NBA Finals.
To still have games on the docket at this point is a cumulation of a season’s worth of success mixed with basketball survival that leads to this point where we’re down to just two teams, each with one goal in mind: win an NBA title.
That’s where the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics find themselves now, with eyeballs across the globe watching intently.
But as we’ve seen in the past, being on this stage also affords athletes and coaches a platform to speak on issues and societal concerns with an attentive audience present.
In the past, we have seen NBA players voice their support for voting rights, speak on the injustices and inequality in the treatment of Blacks by police officers, and a host of other shortcomings within our societal construct.
During the NBA Finals, there were players for both Boston and Golden State donning Orange T-shirts that read, “END GUN VIOLENCE” across the front.
Everyone involved with these two teams wants to win a championship. That’s the goal.
But to not be sensitive to the seemingly endless gun violence that continues to plague our country, isn’t possible to do if you live in this country and have a pulse.
That’s why Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka made a point of talking about the senseless shootings in Uvalde, Texas which is 79 miles southwest of San Antonio, shortly after it happened.
Udoka is familiar with the Uvalde community, having played for the San Antonio Spurs and later been an assistant coach with the team.
“The first thing you think about as a father ... it’s just unimaginable,” Udoka said. “It seems like these things continue to happen and not much of a wake-up call. There has not been a ton of change with the gun laws. With this being in that community, it hit home with me.”
Players and coaches for both teams donned the T-shirts for Game 3. And during an earlier practice, players and coaches wore another T-shirt expressing their support for WNBA star Brittney Griner who is currently being detained in a Russian jail on charges that she had vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis which in Russia is punishable up to 10 years in prison.
Similar to the “END GUN VIOLENCE” T-shirts, bringing added attention to Griner’s detainment through clear and concise messaging with the, “WE ARE BG” T-shirts, is something that players on this particular stage feel an obligation to do.
“The shirts were super important not only showing our support for our sister that is detained over in Russia, Brittney Griner, we just wanted to show that togetherness and love that we have throughout not only the NBA but the WNBA,” said Celtics forward Grant Williams who also serves on the NBA Players Association’s executive board. “She's been a vital part of the WNBA over years past, college, and in the amount of impact she's had on young female athletes, USA and overseas. We hope to have her back in the U.S. and reunited with her family and do what she loves and bring that love and tenacity she always plays with on the court.”
There’s no way of showing how much of an impact them wearing either of those T-shirts will have on bringing about substantive change.
But there’s value in their efforts continuing to show that this is indeed something that they are thinking about, and want others to be thinking about as well.
Moments like this should remind us all that they are citizens just like you and me.
And when they see images of an elementary school where kids were gunned down, they go through the same cacophony of emotions that you and I do with most of us landing on anger, empathy for the families impacted, and a sense of helplessness because there’s nothing that we as individuals can do to make the situation substantially better.
The best thing these athletes can do is use whatever resources they can to help bring about change and attention to the matter.
They are doing their part as citizens by keeping attention on these societal issues and concerns, doing so by using their most powerful weapon at this time which is the platform that comes with being in the NBA Finals.