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NBA and NBPA reach agreement, playoffs to resume on Saturday

After a busy couple of days, the players-led strike action on Wednesday has produced some results — and a plan for the NBA playoffs to return once again on Saturday.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Toronot Raptors Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

After a dramatic series of events on Wednesday night, with the Milwaukee Bucks refusing to take the floor for Game 5 of their series against the Orlando Magic in the NBA’s Disney World Bubble, we’ve reached a tentative agreement. Over the past 48 hours, it felt like the restarted season would indeed shutdown for good after a players’ led strike action — or so-called boycott — and then it seemed like maybe they’d be back sooner rather than later.

The latter turned out to be true, with both ESPN and Yahoo reporting events from a Thursday night meeting called by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to decide how to move forward. The various bits of rumour and sourced reporting are floating around online right now, but the end result is an official joint announcement by the NBPA’s Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Here it is:

As far as strike actions go, there are indeed gains being made here. I’ll start my review at the bottom. Number three on the list speaks to an increase in the amount of advertising aimed at promoting civic engagement amongst the NBA’s fans and, presumably, their local, state, and federal governments. Given the synergy between the NBA and its media partners, it’s possible this kind of advertising could be useful, especially if it continues to speak to Black Lives Matter as a political movement along with other social justice ideas. That said, what these advertisements will look like in practice, and how effective they’ll be, remains to be seen. (That’s a discussion for another post, to be honest. Let’s just say, it’s real easy for the NBA to make commercials.)

Now, the second component above is something the NBA’s owners can absolutely do — and, really, it’s something they should have made clear they’d do yesterday, last week, or months ago when the COVID-19 pandemic started. The history of voter supression and gerrymandering in the United States is ugly, and continues to be to this very day. (In fact, if you’ve been reading the news lately, you may have noticed it has gotten a lot worse.) It should also come as no surprise that Black Americans are most often the target of said surpression.

With a Presidential election coming on November 3 — and the very real rise of fascism within the Trump administration — it’s not nothing for the league’s owners to open their arena doors to help make voting safer and easier, particularly for marginalized communities not often heard from on a national level. (To be clear: the problems in America, and around the world, don’t magically disappear if/when Trump is deposed, but it’s a good start — this could also be a topic for a whole other post, but I digress.)

Finally, we arrive at point number one, which appears to directly address the matter at hand as it relates to systemic anti-Black racism and police violence. This is a considerable problem right now (and has been for the past, oh I don’t know, couple centuries at least) and we can admit it won’t be solved overnight. Some patience may be called for, but keep in mind: it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, actual action comes out of this initiative. With all our eyes on this, hopefully the league understands the magnitude of the situation. If nothing else, this is a start.

The words used in the statement suggest that the NBA and NBPA will form a committee to develop plans that can be put in front of politicians and other public figures to help push for change. As mentioned in the press release, this includes more access to voting, the desire to promote civic engagement, and — most importantly — advocating for serious justice and police reform. This encompasses quite a bit, and we’ll have to see what kind of form it takes, or if the league’s owners will be held to their promises here at all. The players have made it clear they want to see change and they rightly believe the league’s power structure can provide some of it, at least in part. (Our guy Josh discussed that power here.)

If you’ve been following me or Raptors HQ on Twitter, you’ll know that the reform option, particularly as it relates to the police, does not seem like it will be enough to solve the very serious problems we face as a society. The call to defund and then abolish the police sounds better to me, but opinions vary on this point. And as you could probably guess: this is indeed a topic for a whole other post.

For now, we carry on. And yes, as promised in the headline: the NBA playoffs will resume tomorrow — Saturday, August 29. We’ll provide a schedule update once it’s confirmed when the Raptors will play their Game 1 against the Boston Celtics.