The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

How The NBA Promotes Social Causes

There has long been a debate about whether sport should play a role in politics and promoting social causes. Some believe that it should operate within a bubble. Others see its power and reach as an essential driver of political and social change.

One only has to see the furore that arose when NFL players started to take the knee before games as a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. On the other hand, there are many around the world who support the marginalization of Russia, and Russian athletes, over the war in Ukraine.

Different sports also show very varied attitudes to promoting social causes. On the spectrum, basketball’s ruling body is undoubtedly one of most liberal and committed to striving for equality, diversity and opportunities for all.

This takes the form both of an over-riding philosophy as well as running definite initiatives.

Black Lives Matter

As a sport with a significant proportion, currently around 75%, of players from African-American backgrounds it seems right and proper that the league has always aligned itself with the Black Lives Matter movement. This has take many forms in recent years ranging from letting players carry messages on their shirts to sanctioning the postponement of games following racially-motivated events.

There are also no sanctions imposed on players who choose to use their personal social media accounts to make overtly political statements or criticisms of the status quo. In some cases these have even gone as far as sharing phone numbers and email addresses of district attorneys and mayors in order for fans to voice their protests directly.

Compare this to the other major league sports in the US and the contrast is there for all to see.

Promoting diversity

Similarly, the sport continues to press for diversity and equality of opportunity in its hiring and employment policy. Unlike the NFL that has come in for criticism for the lack of Black coaches, the NBA is at an all-time high with 16 employing coaches of color currentl working across the 30 teams.

It also scores very highly when it comes to its general hiring policies throughout the organization with 43.3% of professional staff roles being occupied by women. It even runs a dedicated HBCU Fellowship program offering nearly 80 internship positions earmarked for graduates from 29 participating HCBUs.

Raising money

Money is an important part of any sport, and basketball’s no exception. And, with the increasing popularity of sports betting, there’s more money involved than ever.

This is also reflected in the generosity of the league and the players within it. A prime example is the $1million plus donation that point guard Patty Mills pledged to BLM and a number of other charities. Mills has recently signed for Miami Heat, a team often favored in the NBA lines, doubt his impressive traits off the court helped to secure the move. There have also been numerous shirt auctions with beneficiaries including the Players’ Justice Fund. This, in turn, provides money for many organizations whose role is to advance social justice and civic engagement across the US.

NBA in the Community

Operating under the umbrella of NBA Cares there’s also a wide number of programs and other initiatives in which the NBA aims to make a positive contribution to communities all across the US.

One of the highest profile of these is the Hoops for Troops initiative. This aims to bring together currently engaged and veteran service members and their families and to help the community as a whole. Working with the NBA in general as well as with individual teams, activities include food distribution to less fortunate neighborhoods. There are also many opportunities to meet teams and players, as well as to get basketball playing tips direct from the pros.

Climate change and sustainability are two subjects on many people’s minds at the moment and NBA Green aims to address these too. It acts on two levels. At the top there is a drive to make the sport more environmentally friendly, for example by arranging fixtures in order to minimize air miles needed for visiting teams and fans to reach the games. There is also involvement in communities to open up communal green spaces as well as to promote and encourage recycling.

Acknowledgement of the contributions that individual players make to the communities around them comes in the form of the NBA Cares Community Assist Reward. Recent recipients include the Knicks’ Julius Randle who not only has been donating $500 to a New York basketball school for each three pointer he makes this season but has also arranged many gifts and giveaways too.

So, as is obvious, the NBA walks the walk as well as talking the talk when it comes to acting on their social responsibilities. As a result, many people have benefitted – and many more are set to receive help and support well into the future.

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