Dwight Howard is against the NBA resuming in Orlando next month because he believes it would distract from all of the positive momentum in the movement to dismantle systemic racism.
“I agree with [Brooklyn Nets'] Kyrie [Irving]," Howard said in a statement to CNN. "Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction."
Howard was part of an 80-player phone call on Friday, led by Irving, in which players discussed whether they should partake in the season's resumption at Walt Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex on July 30.
Howard, a 16-year veteran who plays for a Lakers team that's favored to win the NBA title, said he'd be willing to sacrifice something he's fought for his entire career if it could help create positive change.
"I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship," Howard said. "But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families?"
Howard has been sheltering-in-place with his five children in Georgia ever since the season was suspended March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid worldwide protests following the murder of George Floyd, Howard believes players should use this moment to fight racism and police brutality and help effect positive change. Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old black man, died after white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds despite him saying multiple times that he couldn't breathe on May 25 in Minneapolis.
“This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of," Howard said. "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.”
Howard's teammate superstar LeBron James has advocated for the NBA to return throughout the pandemic, though he hasn't commented on basketball since Floyd's death. Instead he’s been very vocal to his combined 112 million followers on Twitter and Instagram about the Black Lives Matter movement and recently founded a nonprofit group named More Than A Vote to fight black voter suppression and excite minority voters across the nation.
There would be major financial ramifications if the season were blown up, including players losing their pay for the rest of the season and owners could use the “force majeure” clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement, undoing the CBA.
Lakers' Kyle Kuzma, who recently wrote an article for the Players' Tribute about how people need to continue marching and using their voices to battle racism, weighed in on Twitter on Friday, writing, "Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted...."
Before this season, Howard's career was flailing. After a disastrous stint with the Lakers in 2012-2013, he went on to play for five teams, getting waived by two of them. Howard then signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers over the offseason for $2.56 million and went on to establish himself as an important role player on the team, averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in 19.2 minutes a game.
But Howard is willing to sacrifice personal success because he believes basketball could distract people from a movement that's finally garnered worldwide attention and widespread support.
"The smallest distraction for them, can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop," Howard said. "Especially with the way the climate is now."