The NBA is officially back – Secluded, disinfected and protected.
After weeks of a routine similar to the style of training camp, teams were back in action starting Wednesday competing in scrimmages, and although they don’t have any official meaning, they serve as a chance for rotations to be tested and players to regain their strength mentally and physically.
For Chris Paul, the NBA bubble serves as a much more powerful stage than just the basketball court. It’s a chance for players to use their platforms on a national level to speak out on the social injustice present around the country and continuing to make headlines all over the nation.
The Oklahoma City Thunder took a 98-84 win over the Boston Celtics in the Thunder’s first scrimmage out of three, and with the big story on the court being the return of Andre Roberson, Paul made sure the message of equality was continuing to spread off the court.
“It’s less about people being willing to hear us and more about us being forceful,” Paul said. “That’s the power we show as players. We have to make sure everyone hears our voices.”
Paul, serving as the president of the National Basketball Players Association and a vocal advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, continues to encourage athletes to speak up and use their platform to spread awareness and educate others on the matter of social justice.
We Honor. pic.twitter.com/Ok5pLimD7Q
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 23, 2020
Paul is one of many players who has taken the opportunity to vocally express thoughts and pleas of action since arriving in Orlando. Others include Marcus Smart, Jerami Grant, LeBron James and more.
“You guys heard ‘Bron say it yesterday,” Paul said. “It’s not just about putting it on the court. It’s a lifestyle; You live it day in and day out.”
Serving his seventh year as president of the NBPA, Paul had a large part in generating the idea to allow NBA players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys, as well as messages supporting social movements and charities. These names would replace the players’ last names, and the idea was developed just days before teams reported to Orlando to begin the restart process.
Paul had hopes players would buy into the idea in an attempt to continue fighting systematic racism despite being pulled away from their communities, and the NBA and NBPA agreed on the idea on June 28 making it a primary focus to the restart of the league.
The Thunder released a list of players on Friday who bought into putting a message promoting social justice on the back of their jerseys. They are as follow:
- Chris Paul – “Equality”
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – “Equality”
- Nerlens Noel – “Equality”
- Dennis Schröder – “Black Lives Matter”
- Hamidou Diallo – “Black Lives Mater”
- Terrance Ferguson – “Black Lives Matter”
- Andre Roberson – “I Am A Man”
- Devon Hall – “Love Us”
- Mike Muscala – “Peace”
- Abdel Nader – “Peace”
- Lu Dort – “Respekte Nou” (Haitian Creole for “Respect Us”)
- Steven Adams – “Kia Kaha” (Miori for “Stay Strong” aka “Power to the People”)
- Danilo Gallinari – “Giustizia” (Italian for “Justice”)
- Kevin Hervey – “Shalom” (Hebrew for “Peace”)
“We want to continue educating people,” Paul said. “We want to bring brown and black people into front offices and in positions of power making decisions. Not just the players.”
Along with many other areas of involvement, Paul has also partnered with Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony to create the Social Change Fund: A fund partnering with grassroot initiatives paving a path for a more united and equal future involving black and brown communities. The mission will be to address socio-economic injustices head on and bring positive changes for a more diverse and better tomorrow.
From being a leader on the court to young players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley to being an advocate for social justice and equality off the court, Chris Paul is making his voice heard in a valiant effort to remind fans that the restart is much more than just basketball being revived; It’s about overcoming the odds to create a better tomorrow and using your platform to reach new heights in the fight for social equality.
“A lot more people are getting comfortable talking about these situations, but these situations aren’t new,” Paul said. “I think our players did an unbelievable job making sure the different governors, Adam [Silver] and everyone in the league knew exactly how we feel in these circumstances.”
Chris Paul and the Thunder will be back in action against the Philadelphia 76ers for scrimmage No. 2 on Sunday at 12 p.m. ET (11 a.m. CT).