LeBron James Changes His Stance After Former President Barack Obama Advises Him to Finish Out the NBA Season, Playoffs Scheduled to Resume Saturday

LeBron James, Chris Paul, and a few other NBA players spoke to former President Barack Obama on Wednesday about their decision to protest the playoffs in order to bring continued awareness to nationwide racial injustice and police brutality, according to The Athletic. Obama reportedly advised the players to finish out the season and “utilize the opportunity to contextualize action they want in order to play.” They also discussed the possible formation of a committee for player action that Obama would be involved to some degree.

The call took place following Wednesday’s player’s meeting, in which LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard voted not to finish the season following the shooting of a 29-year-old unarmed black man, Jacob Blake, by Kenosha, Wisconsin police, that left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.

Since suspending the season at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in March, and following the Jazz’s Rudy Gobert’s positive rest results, the NBA spent months finalizing plans that would get players back on the court safely. In addition to prioritizing player’s health, the league agreed to make social justice a key component of the restart. Players have aptly used each minute in front of the camera, whether that’s arriving to the arena, on the court, or during interviews, to advocate for racial justice.

After hearing the news of Blake’s shooting, the Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the court for Game 5 in their playoff series against the Orlando Magic. The Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers, who were also scheduled to play that day, chose to stand in solidarity with the Bucks, and games were postponed for two days.

Following the call with Obama, a meeting took place between owners and players Thursday, where they were able to come to an agreement to resume the rest of the season.

In a joint statement issued by the NBA and NBPA, they wrote, “We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality.  Among others, the attendees included players and team representatives of all 13 teams in Orlando.  All parties agreed to resume NBA playoff games on Saturday, Aug. 29 with the understanding that the league together with the players will work to enact the following commitments:

1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches, and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.

2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID.  If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.

3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.”

The NBA playoffs will resume today at 3:30 ET with Magic vs. Bucks on ESPN, followed by Thunder vs. Rockets and Blazers vs. Lakers.

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