NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot participated in an NBA virtual roundtable discussion on Wednesday that focused on the NBA's role moving forward in fighting systemic racism and driving long-term change.
Hosted by former NBA All-Star Caron Butler, the discussion lasted an hour and included insight and perspective on the responsibility that the league, teams and players have moving forward. The virtual roundtable took place on the same day that the NBA revealed extensive plans for resuming the season in Orlando at the end of July.
#NBATogether Virtual Roundtable begins now.- NBA (@NBA) June 16, 2020
Tune in as Caron Butler (@realtuffjuice) discusses confronting systemic racism and driving long-term change with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, @ChicagosMayor Lori Lightfoot & @MagicJohnson. #NBAVoices https://t.co/nMT8bUo7w7
On the live stream, Silver acknowledged the magnitude of the role the NBA can play in advocating for change. "On one hand, we think the NBA can have almost an unparalleled voice in this conversation because of what we stand for, because we represent, frankly, when you think about our players, some of the best-known Black people in the entire world are part of the NBA and now part of the WNBA. So we know we can have a very important voice, but I also take that incredibly seriously. And so, to me, I've been cautious - maybe to some people's liking, too cautious - but I wanted to make sure before we, in essence, signed on for a particular platform, that we took the time to make sure that we understand how we can be the most impactful."
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Referring to the players' participation in the protests and their place at the forefront of the fight for a fairer society, the commissioner commented: "This moment is becoming a movement. I am particularly proud of our players, current and past. They are doing a fantastic job. This is not something new in the NBA community, but it takes a long time. I have been in the league for 28 years, but it started before with people like you, Caron and Magic, Bill Russell and other greats that formed this league."
For his part, Johnson expanded on his belief that continuing the season provides players with an even bigger platform to spark change as protests concerning social injustices and police brutality will carry on regardless of what happens on the court.
"Playing basketball is not going to stop the protests, " Johnson said. " I think it can even give them more momentum, because of the great platform that the players have in the NBA. The guys have to understand that this is a chance for them to come together and bring change, thinking about how they can do it as a group. They can do it individually in the cities or states where they live or play, but they can also come together and say: let's support this group, let's do this together, let's believe this. "
"You have to remember that this is a worldwide movement. Nothing is going to stop it. It is going to continue and when the guys are together, they must come together and plan something really strong. So then Adam, the players, Michele Roberts and everyone can come together and say: we decided to do this, which is going to bring about a real change. That is what I would love to see."
In addition to releasing plans for the return of the season and health protocols, the NBA also informed all 30 teams of the league's intent to remain engaged in the community and larger social issues at hand.
NBA has informed all 30 teams of this entering 2019-20 resumption: "A central goal of our season restart will be to utilize the NBA's platform to bring attention and sustained action to issues of social injustice..." pic.twitter.com/qfrRms88Hi- Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 16, 2020
On the next steps to be taken by the league, Silver highlighted his idea of not rushing and looking for the best path to take. "Right now I am in a way to continue listening. Thinking about how we collectively, and that includes you Caron and Magic as part of the family, we can have the greatest impact in the future."
The commissioner also spoke about the return of the league and its link to the continuity of the movement. "Let's make sure that when we go back to playing basketball, the broader message about social equity and racial issues is not lost in the discussion."
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As for the concerns some players have shared about returning to play in the midst of social unrest throughout the country, Silver expressed his support for those players who decide to focus elsewhere. "I certainly don't want to get on the other side of the problem and if some choose not to play, because they think they can do more dealing directly with social issues, I respect that."
As mayor of the third-largest city in the United States and home to the Chicago Bulls, Mayor Lightfoot provided perspective on the lasting impact the NBA can have on communities not only in Chicago but throughout the nation.
"In our lives there is a hunger for sports and the NBA is like no other league. People love the game and what the NBA represents. It is an amazing platform to talk about important things and make commitments." Lightfoot said. " Let's use these players who are iconic in the eyes of our young people, to talk about this moment.
"I think that you are going to have the attention of the world and will be able to use it in such a powerful way, that it will be something lasting, about what will be able to build in the coming years."