Unprecedented – that’s the best way to describe ’20 for the NBA. First, it was a pandemic. Then it became about finding the way to play out the season. It was all intertwined players’ activism efforts, as the bubble became the platform for them advocating for social justice.
Today, as we wait for the next NBA season to start, the pandemic is still going on, the bubble experiment proved to be a huge success, and players are still on a quest for social equality. But with what took place on Monday morning, their efforts took on another dimension, in what is the latest iteration of the NBA’s unprecedented.
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, “an assistant to Pope Francis reached out to the players’ association last week indicating the Pope wanted to learn more about how players had recently brought attention to pressing social justice issues and economic inequality — and what they planned for the future.”
The players’ union quickly scheduled an overnight flight, sending a delegation of Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Anthony Tolliver, Marco Belinelli, and the union’s executive director Michele Roberts to the Vatican for a private meeting with the pope which began at 11:45 a.m. local time on Monday morning.
Korver and Brown were both members of the Bucks team that chose to sit out a postseason game against the Orlando Magic in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Along with George Hill, Brown was the first guy who decided not to play, initiating the collective effort that caused the three-day boycott before the games eventually continued. Isaac, an ordained minister, was one of the only players and coaches to stand for the national anthem during the NBA’s restart in Orlando.
The meeting was set to last an hour, after which the group left the papal library of the Apostolic Palace and toured the St. Peter’s Square. Players are still quiet about the meeting, as they plan to discuss it with the media after they return to the U.S. on Tuesday morning.
With the Holy See getting involved, this may end up being a historical mark in the NBA’s record of social activism. It just goes to show the worldwide impact players have, and the reach the NBA platform as a whole has. They caught the Pope’s attention, it’s safe to say they did the same with the rest of the world.