NBA players should boycott the season, and no, Kyrie Irving wasn’t right

By Donald Oliver August 27, 2020
A reporter sits beside an empty court after a postponed NBA basketball first round playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The game was postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks didn't take the floor in protest against racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A reporter sits beside an empty court after a postponed NBA basketball first round playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The game was postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks didn't take the floor in protest against racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. AP Photo/Ashley Landis

The Milwaukee Bucks restarted a fierce discussion about sports and politics on Wednesday evening after they boycotted their Eastern Conference first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

Their boycott comes in the aftermath of yet another police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday. Blake is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down.

It would not have been easy for the Wisconsin-based team to have made this decision which will hit the bottom line of broadcasters, the league itself, their team and eventually, the players.

In June, the Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving led a conference call involving 80 players and vehemently argued against the league’s restart once the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the United States. His drive was to highlight the plight of Black America as they protested the killing of George Floyd another unarmed black man, murdered by a police officer who had a knee on his neck on a road in Minneapolis.

However, his call against the restart came at a time when the NBA was already on pause because of the coronavirus and a boycott would not have made the same kind of impact it would at this point in time.

Kyrie who is vice president of the National Basketball Players Association was right about one thing, playing games wouldn’t have solved the problems of racial injustice. However, boycotting the league then, wouldn’t have had the same result either.

Quite possibly a more perfect opportunity would have been boycotting the finals, whether it would have been the conference finals or the actual NBA finals. But the recent incidents have brought forward this latest action by the players and it now seems more appropriate to impose their will and send the strongest-possible message.

Let’s also be blunt about another point re Kyrie Irving. His worldwide view hasn’t always been spherical, but this is a different sphere. Any boycott with him as the face or voice would have been met with derision and a huge lack of credibility. And the importance of that moment, that movement and that effort would have been lost. Of course, every voice matters when it comes to the cause of racial equality. However, any charge and any course of action must be strategic, surgical and full of thought. And the messenger must be as solid as the message.

I don’t think the players would have boycotted these games if there was compassion from the current occupant in the White House.

Let’s also be fair, extra-judicial killings of unarmed black people have been going on for a while. And while there was a sense of empathy coming from the previous President of the USA, there now appears to be apathy from the current administration on this matter.

The US elections are in November, and the new NBA season is set to begin December 1. This boycott is poised to strongly push a referendum against President Donald Trump, and it is coming two months before voters go to the polls. This is now strategic.

In a couple of months we will know if it works, but there should be no going back for the players like the NBA announced earlier today. If they are going to risk it… risk it all.

It appears the mindset of the Los Angeles teams is one of the same at the moment as there are reports that both the Lakers and Clippers voted to quit the postseason.

My first article spoke about black athletes being more than their talent, and they should utilize their platforms to speak out in a society which finds it difficult to adapt to a more inclusive way.

Another moment has been introduced to opportunity.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

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