Former NFL star and political activist, Colin Kaepernik, took a knee in 2016 and became the face of athlete protesters against racial discrimination. However, the NBA is the league at the fore of the fight.

Earlier this year, we saw players take a collective stand, and force a walk-off when the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic refused to compete in the fifth game of their first-round series following the shooting of Jacob Blake. At its core, this boycott was about athletes of colour making a point to deliberately inconvenience white people — the owners, the media, the sponsors, and the fans — and convey a message.

This new generation of athlete activists is re-defining what it means to belong to the league. More now than ever, ballers force ballots. Over the years, the NBA has probably seen the most progression of any sport since it’s founding in 1946. Originally dominated by unathletic, white men politely taking it in turns to softly lay the ball into the hoop, it’s now a high-octane, global sport that reaches millions. 

Matthew Roth@Flickr
NBA player Damien Lillard at a Black Lives Matter protest – Matthew Roth@Flickr

This July, Chris Paul teamed up with fellow NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony to create the Social Change Fund. The trio have been long-time friends in the league, all sharing similar mentalities. They have all been advocates for social change and have been using their position of influence to fight for equality. The fund aims to “[invest] in and [support] organisations that advocate for communities of colour through long-term policy solutions, community representation, and narrative change.”

Recently, the trio have partnered with none other than the queen of giving out free cars, Oprah Winfrey, and author Deepak Chopra, collaborating with their organisation, Chophra Global (can you see what they’ve done with the name there?) in aiding Black educators across America. This collaboration will partner organisations hard at work serving large minority populations, including Teach for America, DonorsChoose, and HBCU Heroes by giving them much-needed resources.

“Teachers have the essential role of helping to shape the minds of the next generation and our future leaders, and given the challenging year we’ve had, this partnership is more important than ever,” said Anthony in the press release. 

It’s amazing to see NBA athletes begin to use their platform for philanthropic purposes. This type of action is desperately needed within sports, especially due to the huge scope and great influence that modern-day athletes possess. This platform is especially efficacious in the NBA. As a league that is largely composed of African-American males, inevitably racism directly affects them as an industry. Therefore, it is so important that basketball players have a duality between sports and politics.

Having said this, it is possibly more important that sports fans, especially whites, acknowledge that sports is political. Of course it is. Sports isn’t separate from the rest of the functioning, or non-functioning, world. It’s our responsibility to continue the discourse, and help NBA players continue to be outspoken about these issues.

You can donate to The Social Change Fund by following this link: https://www.thesocialchangefund.org/