LeBron James is one of the most politically active athletes in the world. He has spoken out in favor of gun control, opened a school, and only recently started a voting rights organization ahead of the 2020 presidential election. He is also, by far, the most influential voice within the NBA itself. Patrick Beverley said it best when the league and players were considering restarting the season in June. "If King James said we hooping," Beverley tweeted, "We all hooping."
On Wednesday, though, James' Lakers as well as their primary rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, are the primary factions against finishing the 2019-20 NBA season following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police officers, according to multiple reports. While it is unclear whether the two teams formally voted against resuming the season or have merely pushed back against it, The Athletic's Shams Charania reports that when LeBron left the meeting, the Lakers and Clippers followed him out the door.
James, according to Charania, wants owners to take more action and be more involved in creating social change. He has already voiced his displeasure with the steps the league has taken on the front. He chose to wear his own name on the back of his jersey at Disney rather than a social justice message because he was not satisfied with the options that the league approved.
The NBA and NBPA announced the creation of a $300 million fund to help Black-owned businesses earlier this month, but James is acutely aware of the power he wields as one of the NBA's greatest and most famous players. He kicked off the player empowerment era in 2010 by becoming one of the first superstars in league history to change teams through free agency. Now, he is using his power yet again to push for a more socially conscious NBA.
According to Charania, Udonis Haslem shared the sentiment that many others were likely thinking after the Lakers and Clippers left the meeting: without the two big-market championship favorites, the season could not realistically resume. In other words: no LeBron, no season. What exactly the league would need to offer in order to sway him remains unclear, but what we can say for certain is that token gestures will no longer be enough. Putting social justice messages on the backs of jerseys and "Black Lives Matter" on the court will not be enough. NBA owners and their business partners are among the most powerful people in America. If they want to continue making money off of LeBron's play, they will have to take real action in support of the causes he and other players believe in.