The push against restarting the NBA season at Disney World reportedly has support from a number of big-name players. Kyrie Irving is at the center of the eleventh-hour bid to focus on social justice reform rather than providing a distraction for fans, and as of Saturday, it appeared as if Dwight Howard was as well. He released a lengthy statement through CNN arguing that now is not the time to play basketball.
"I agree with Kyrie (Irving)," Howard said. "Basketball, or entertainment period, isn't needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us the players, but we have resources at hand majority of our community don't have. And the smallest distraction for them, can start a trickle down effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that's just to (sic) beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families. This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families. This is where our Unity starts. At home! With Family!! European Colonization stripped us of our rich history, and we have yet to sit down and figure us out. The less distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It's time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved."
Interestingly, though, Howard's agent, Charles Briscoe, told ESPN's Dave McMenamin that the Lakers' center is undecided on playing if the season does resume. According to McMenamin, "basketball is the furthest thing from his mind at this moment."
"The statement was about social injustice and racism," Briscoe said. "Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn't saying that basketball shouldn't be. He's just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what's going on in the country to talk about basketball. Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what's going on with people dying in the streets, that's something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice."
Aside from Howard's stance on social justice and the protests that are ongoing throughout the nation, there is also the matter of COVID-19. Positive tests for the coronavirus are rising, and the disease killed the mother of one of Howard's children, Melissa Rios.
While quite a few players, led by LeBron James, would like to finish the season, others have reportedly cited a number of concerns that go beyond social justice or the coronavirus. Among them is the NBA's plan to restrict family visitors until the end of the first round, hotel accommodations at Disney and freedom of movement within the Disney bubble.
Talks are ongoing not only between the NBA and the NBPA, but within the union itself. While players may prefer no basketball to be played at all, it is possible that those players could decide that scattered and individual boycotts would not be effective if the league continues with its plans to return. If the NBA does indeed come back, then it could be argued that Howard and other players who would prefer it not to would be able to meaningfully use the platform of basketball to push for social change.
There are no easy answers here. The NBPA represents hundreds of players with differing viewpoints on several very complicated issues. Players will have to decide for themselves how comfortable they are playing right now.