NBA Hall of Famer Wayne Embry: 'Players Should Never Shut Up and Dribble'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2020

Wayne Embry raises his hand as he stands with fellow recipients of 14th annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award before the 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. Chris Bosh, Candace Parker, and Bill Walton were also honored. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

NBA Hall of Famer Wayne Embry believes the league's players "should never shut up and dribble" as they continue to debate resuming the season in Orlando amid the marches and gatherings protesting systemic racism and police brutality. 

But he also told ESPN's Brian Windhorst that he would choose to play at this time:

"I've always been a proponent of sports being a model of a greater society because we come together from different cultures and different backgrounds and work toward a common goal. Going ahead and playing now could be a model. I know I would play.

"I'm a big supporter of the First Amendment. You have every right to be vocal and protest. Our players should never shut up and dribble. If you believe in the constitution, that makes you a patriot and you're entitled to say whatever you want."

The "shut up and dribble" line was used by Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham in 2018 as an attempt to discredit the political opinions and critiques of Donald Trump by LeBron James and Kevin Durant

"It's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball," she said. "Keep the political comments to yourselves. ... Shut up and dribble."

Embry, 83, was the first Black general manager and team president in the NBA. He also spent 11 seasons as a player for the Cincinnati Royals, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for his career. 

He remains in the league as a senior adviser for the Toronto Raptors. 

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Embry and his Celtics teammates had a playoff game in Philadelphia and had to decide whether or not to play:

"We knew the country was going to be thrown into turmoil. We knew there was going to be riots. Most of the players weren't going to play. Our minds weren't on the game. We were all stung.

"We had a meeting. Some of the white players wanted to play. Most of the black players didn't. Red [Auerbach] came to us and said Commissioner [J. Walter] Kennedy been in contact with mayors of both cities and they thought it was wise if we played because of the interest in the game. People would stay home to watch it. We had a debate. We didn't want to see violence. Dr. King's legacy had been nonviolent. So we played the game."

The NBA then halted league play for four days until King's funeral. 

As for the present situation, a players coalition led by Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley wants to see the NBA commit to a number of changes before any resumption of play.

According to Malika Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, those changes include: "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."