NBA commissioner Adam Silver joined former players Caron Butler and Magic Johnson and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for an NBA Together conversation Tuesday regarding the protests happening around the country and the role the NBA and its players can take in the fight against systemic racism and police brutality.
The conversation inevitably turned to the players who are currently debating whether a return to basketball in late July in Orlando would distract people from those issues. Silver said he understood and respected that perspective and acknowledged that some players might choose not to return this season (38:50):
"I respect their point of view," Silver said. "... I would only say that this may not be for everyone. There's no doubt that returning to play requires enormous sacrifice on the part of virtually everyone in the NBA community. So, I just begin there, that some people may decide—and it may not just be because of reasons around social unrest [but] for health reasons, family reasons, again, this is a choice they may make—that they would rather not be in Orlando, Florida."
He added that the NBA's "enormous global platform"—including its "social media platform that reaches 1.8 billion people around the world"—could be an important tool for creating real change:
"If we're able to relaunch our league—and as I said, there's a lot of issues to work through—my sense is there'll be enormous attention placed on the league and the players down in Orlando. And media will be included and they will have that platform.
"But again, I certainly don't want to take the other side of the issue. ... If they choose to make a choice not to play in the NBA and think that they can do more dealing directly with social issues, I respect that. But I will say, we have this platform in Orlando and, as I've said, we've been in discussions with the Players Association, with individual players about how we can better use this platform with real substantive policy that we can impact over time."
Those comments came on the heels of Avery Bradley telling ESPN's Malika Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski Tuesday that NBA players wanted to see the league contribute more than just the aforementioned platform in the fight against systemic racism:
"Regardless of how much media coverage will be received, talking and raising awareness about social injustice isn't enough. Are we that self-centered to believe no one in the world is aware of racism right now? That, as athletes, we solve the real issues by using our platforms to speak?
"We don't need to say more. We need to find a way to achieve more. Protesting during an anthem, wearing T-shirts is great, but we need to see real actions being put in to the works."
Per that report, Bradley and the players coalition wants to see a plan from the NBA that includes "improved hiring practices for black front-office and head-coaching candidates—making it so the league's management better reflects its composition of players; donations to organizations serving black communities; and partnerships with black-owned businesses and arena vendors" before any potential restart of the season in Orlando.