The NBA, like just about every other professional sports league, has a league-wide organization which promotes the charitable contributions of NBA’s coaches and players’ time and money to what it deems worthwhile causes. This organization is called NBA Cares.
I think it’s less of a slogan and more of an embodiment of the principles of the NBA.
This is the league that opened its doors to players from all over the world. There is not a continent on the planet that has not had multiple NBA players who have contributed to the success and growth of the sport.
This is a league that welcomed Jason Collins, the first openly gay male professional athlete in any of the four major sports, and Bill Kennedy as an openly gay referee. The league has welcomed three female referees, and the San Antonio Spurs recently hired the first female assistant coach, Becky Hammon.
This is the league which forced Donald Sterling to give up his NBA franchise for making racist comments. The league pulled its All-Star game from Charlotte after the passage of North Carolina’s HB2, a direct infringement on the rights of transgender people.
So you can imagine the league-wide reaction after the United States elected Donald Trump to the presidency. Here are just a handful of the comments that have been made by NBA players and coaches:
Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy was the most vocal: “I don’t know how you go about it, if you’re a person of color today or a Latino. Because white society just said to you, again — not like we haven’t forever — but again, and emphatically, that I don’t think you deserve equality. We don’t think you deserve respect. And the same with women.”
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr added, “Just the whole process has left us [as a team] feeling disgusted and disappointed. I thought we were better than this.”
LeBron James chimed in via Instagram: “Minorities and Women in all please know that this isn’t the end, it’s just a very challenging obstacle that we will overcome.”
Golden State Warriors forward David West added, “[Trump’s] attitudes about black people, about Muslim people, about women, about just about every sort of political group you can name, folks agree with his positions […] so this whole fairy tale about some post-racial, utopia that Obama created it’s all, it’s all bull.”
And finally, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said, “I’m a rich white guy and I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it. I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now, or a woman, or an African-American, a Hispanic, a handicapped person, how disenfranchised they might feel.”
The NBA understands, at a deeper level than all other American sports leagues, that inclusiveness makes the league stronger, not weaker. The standard of human decency is not a moving target and respect for all players, coaches, referees and people is the bare minimum that the league expects. NBA Cares is more than just a PR slogan; it’s what makes it the best league in the world.
I’ll conclude with a tweet from Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins, “The Cavs are going to the White House tomorrow. One of them speculated that they may be the last NBA team to do that for a while.”
The NBA cares, and that’s why I care about it.