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CultureNBA

Black NBA Players Don’t Have To Save The World

They didn't create the NBA’s drama with China, so don't ask them to fix it.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Don’t ask any of the black players in the NBA to clean up the league’s mess with China.

Despite having talents that seem superhuman at times, it’s not the responsibility of black players to fix the NBA’s business relationship with one of their biggest partners, which was strained due to a now-deleted tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey.

It’s bad enough that James Harden had to offer an apology last week for Morey’s controversial tweet in support of protesters in Hong Kong. But since then, he’s realized that this isn’t his cause.

“I’m staying out of it,” said Harden. “I’m focusing on what we have and trying to get better. We’re a week and a half away from the regular season.”

I’ve heard some ask where LeBron James has been in all this, given that he’s used his platform to be a change agent. And although James was helpful in getting California Senate Bill 206 passed, so that student-athletes could make money off their likeness, this one isn’t his fight.

As a player, James is focused on leading the Los Angeles Lakers back to glory this upcoming season. As a black man, James is more than likely reeling, like most of Black America, from the death of Atatiana Jefferson.

Jefferson is the latest innocent black person to become a hashtag, given that the 28-year-old was killed by a Texas police officer while babysitting her nephew. These are the kinds of things African-Americans deal with in 2019, so excuse players like James and Harden for not having any desire to throw on their capes to help save an American professional sports league from something that has nothing to do with them.

However, James broke his silence on Monday night.

“We all talk about this freedom of speech,” he said. “Yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, and you’re only thinking about yourself. I don’t want to get into a… feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.”

It’s been interesting to watch how things have played out. Morey has slid into the background as the attention has unfairly shifted towards the players. It’s amazing when you think about it, given just how much damage was done by a single tweet, as Morey has somehow been absolved of fixing the problem he started.

Which is why it’s problematic to expect black players to be diplomatic in this moment.

Black people don’t owe the world their time, especially since no one is making the same demands of white athletes.

A big part of the reason the thinking around this is so flawed is that the same people that want Harden, James and others to fix the NBA’s problems are the same ones who never stand with or support them when they’re using their platform to address issues in their communities.

America wants black players to entertain them, yet have never signed up to support their advocacy.

They want them to “shut up and dribble,” remember?

“Stick to sports” is cool to tweet until you need a black athlete to help fix your problems so that you can sell shoes and close TV deals in China.

“Just heard about the Trump thing. Gotta’ welcome Steve to the club,” said Steph Curry after learning that the President criticized Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr along with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich because their remarks about the NBA and China were measured and thoughtful, which of course irked Trump.

“We’ve obviously been really outspoken since I can remember, in terms of our organization and all that,” Curry recently said. “But from the league and China and just our presence there and building a business, it’s an interesting situation because there’s so much history involved in it.

“I don’t know that history well enough to kind of speak on it or to form an opinion yet, so that’s kind of where I’m at with the situation. … I’m staying tuned like everybody else.”

Curry realizes that this isn’t his cross to bear.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with African-Americans deciding not to be invested in anything besides gaining equality in their own country.

That sentiment is magnified when you consider what’s taking place at this very moment. Because while we’re still gaining information on what happened to Atatiana Jefferson, we’re also still dealing with the fact that Botham Jean’s killer, in a similar incident, didn’t receive the sentence that many of us felt she should have due to white privilege.

That privilege is the same reason why Daryl Morey isn’t being asked to clean up his mess.

The NBA has quite often been viewed as the American pro sports league that embraces its diversity and promotes the fact that its players frequently use their platforms to effect change.

It’s been a smart move by the league, but also a convenient one.

The league should learn from this.

Because if they ever want their players to serve as diplomats in the future, it would behoove them to be more supportive of their efforts to be free in their own backyards (Stephon Clark) and living rooms (Jefferson).

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