Former NBA star Stephen Jackson expressed support Saturday for players potentially sitting out the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season to protest against racial inequality, police brutality and social injustice.
In an interview with Stadium's Shams Charania, Jackson said the opportunity to create change was more important than basketball right now:
"We have to take advantage of this moment," Jackson said. "How long are we gonna put things more important than humanity? How long are we gonna put material things and games and stuff more important than people? This is the moment we have to stop that and I think people understand that, but I think they have to get out of their comfort zone."
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving made an "impassioned plea" for players to sit out the remainder of the season and focus on social issues during an NBPA call on Friday.
Charania reported that Irving said: "I don't support going into Orlando. I'm not with the systematic racism and the bulls--t. Something smells a little fishy."
Last week, the NBPA voted in favor of a plan that would see the NBA season resume in Orlando, Florida, with no fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 22 teams that are invited are slated to play eight games each beginning on July 30, and the top eight teams in each conference will then compete in the playoffs.
Racial inequality has been an especially big topic of conversation in the United States since May 25, when George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Floyd was pronounced dead after Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed against the back of Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and facedown on the ground. Floyd said he couldn't breathe multiple times, but Chauvin didn't relent.
Chauvin was fired, arrested and charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers on the scene—Thomas Lane, J.A. Keung and Tou Thao—were charged with aiding and abetting.
Since Floyd's death, protests against racial inequality, police brutality and social injustice have been held across the country and the world.
Jackson—who spent 14 seasons in the NBA from 2000 to '14 and won an NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003—was friends with Floyd, a fellow Houston native.
Jackson has been calling for reform and has been at the forefront of the protests against systemic racism ever since Floyd's death, and the cancellation of the NBA season to focus on those issues could go a long way toward bringing even more attention to the cause.