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During the 2014-2015 National Basketball Association (NBA) season, the Atlanta Hawks won 60 games, the most in the franchise’s history, and made their deepest postseason run since they were the St. Louis Hawks in the 1950s and 1960s. The 2015-2016 season should have filled me with excitement at the prospects of a championship team, but it didn’t. That’s because I had given up cheering for them altogether.
What could possibly make a young fan who ran around in a Joe Johnson shirt and Dominique Wilkins socks give up on his favorite team? After the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states, the Hawks changed their logo on social media to rainbow colors. By doing so, they alienated me. By making such a statement of support they displayed that their values did not align with my own Christian values on marriage. Taking such a stance brought a political and moral issue into sports, putting my favorite basketball team on one side and myself on the other.
Over the last several years, the NBA has continued its social justice and “woke” crusade and along the way they have continued to lose more fans just like me.
Last season, the NBA’s ratings plummeted. The 2020 NBA Finals had the lowest ratings in the history of the sport with only 5.6 million people tuning in. Greg Couch at Outkick blamed the ratings nosedive on the sport’s commitment to social justice virtue signaling. He said,
“Games that traditionally started with the National Anthem, wrapped in a pristine, easily digestible and celebratory view of Americana, have become full-blown expressions of what’s wrong with the USA. Whether the players are right or wrong doesn’t matter. It’s disconcerting to a large portion of the audience. It was counter-marketing to the image of an NBA bubble at Disney World, the Happiest Place on Earth. Imagine Disney pivoting away from Mickey Mouse and making Cardi B its pitchman.”
In case you thought that the ratings drop was due to COVID, it wasn’t. Ratings are continuing to collapse. The sport’s prime partner, ABC, is projected to have even worse ratings on the network’s games than last year.
Any sensible business would pull the emergency brake on any policy or initiative that could be driving customers away, but not the NBA. The sport is doubling down on its social justice war. Today, the sport announced the creation of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. The criteria: “The recipient will have advanced Abdul-Jabbar’s mission to drive change and inspired others to reflect on injustice and take collective action in their communities over the previous year.”
The winner will select an organization to receive a $100,000 donation while other finalists will select organizations to receive a $25,000 donation.
Abdul-Jabbar applauded what the sport has done regarding social justice, saying, “I’m really proud of what the NBA has been doing all along in terms of activism and their efforts for equality and inclusion. I think they’ve done a great job. I’ve always felt that was something important and teaming up with them to be involved in this award is very meaningful.”
Regarding players’ kneeling and protestation of alleged police brutality, he said,
“All of these needs, they have to start with small steps. I mean, we can’t just take a big, huge giant step. That usually ends up being a step in the wrong puddle. So, we’ve got to take our time and understand that we need to take all these little steps to get to where we need to go — where there’s justice. We don’t want to make policemen’s jobs impossible. But we don’t want police just arbitrarily killing people. It’s going to take some effort, but we can get there.”
NBA players have not only protested during the national anthem, but the sport’s biggest star LeBron James drew criticism for his since-deleted tweet showing a picture the officer who shot Ma’Khia Bryant with a caption reading, “YOU’RE NEXT!”
NBA owners have gone woke, as well. Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, announced that the team would no longer play the U.S. national anthem prior to games before being overruled by the league. New Orleans Pelicans’ head coach Stan Van Gundy agreed, saying, “This should happen everywhere. If you think the anthem needs to be played before sporting events, then play it before every movie, concert, church service and the start of every work day at every business. What good reason is there to play the anthem before a game?”
The fact is the NBA doesn’t understand Americans or its fans. Perhaps the league does understand, but they just don’t care. Either way, multi-millionaire athletes who gladly take money from human-rights violator China scolding Americans is not playing well.
Just like Hollywood’s endless parade of awards shows that the country now largely ignores, this social justice award is another example of how out of touch elites are with average Americans.
Abdul-Jabbar was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 for his Skyhook Foundation, which provides STEM opportunities to underserved communities. That is a tangible and real benefit to the youth of America and should be applauded. His comment that the police are “just arbitrarily killing people,” however, should be soundly denounced. His social justice award, which will reward players for kneeling, tweeting, and sowing division, will provide no benefit to Americans and especially not to inner city black communities, where people are suffering and dying due to the “defund the police” movement that the NBA has pushed.
If the NBA and its players truly believe in equality, then here’s a challenge: Share your wealth with — and start doing things for — less privileged communities, including not just inner-city communities, but rural towns and Appalachian communities as well. Pay yourself a $15/hour wage and give the rest away to the poor, sell your private jets and luxury vehicles, drop your security detail, sell your million-dollar mansions, and live like regular people. If you really want to help your community, instead of judging others and whining, get out of your fancy neighborhoods and away from your celebrity friends and get involved by tutoring students, picking up trash off the streets, patching somebody’s roof, or visiting the elderly.
If you think cops can and should do a better job of policing then, by all means, quit your job, join the police force, and serve in your community, or at least go on a ride-along and see what it’s really like to put your life on the line every day. Instead of telling black kids that they’ll never make it because white people and the system are racist, be a mentor to them, teach them to pursue STEM education, help send them to college or trade school, or invest in their business ideas.
Instead of being a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party, which has preyed on the black community for decades, or the Chinese Communist Party, which has put religious minorities into concentration camps and is making NBA merchandise using slave labor, pursue real change and real unity where we all view each other as Americans.
But that’s too much work and too much reality for the NBA. Instead, they prefer to go to movie premieres and award shows, collect their sponsorship money from equally woke corporations, tweet about societal problems, and tell others how to live rather than actually being a part of the solution.
If the NBA and its players don’t stop their hollow virtue-signaling and vapid social justice crusade, they will soon reach a point of no return and realize that they have achieved little more than to have steadily and permanently driven away the majority of their fans — who, like me, never wanted to hear political preaching but simply wanted to take a break from life and enjoy a good game of basketball.