Is the NBA Returning Solely Because LeBron Wants It To?

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As the NBA is set to return, there are some players who feel a return to the court could take away from the Black Lives Matter movement we currently see happening across the world. Most notably, Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard. However, the league is still on track to return in July and Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley took to Twitter to at least hint, or perhaps troll, at what he apparently believes is one reason why.

But is it fair to put the onus of the NBA's return solely on LeBron James when many across the league want to play? Sports Illustrated host Robin Lundberg talked about the significance of James' voice with Robert Littal CEO of Black Sports Online and Melissa Rohlin of AllLakers.

Read the full video transcript:

Robin Lundberg: The NBA is set to return, but some players have expressed concern it could take away from the Black Lives Matter movement, most notably Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard. For more, I'm joined by Melissa Rohlin of All Lakers. And Robert Littal, CEO of Black Sports Online. Robert, let me start with you. Obviously, I understand those guys' sentiment, but as well as that, the notion the NBA could provide a platform for a league wide message. Patrick Beverley tweeted, "Whatever Hooper's say, if LeBron wants to play, they're going to play." Is it fair to put the onus of the return on LeBron James? 

Robert Littal: Well, that's not fair. But I mean, its reality. LeBron James is the face of the NBA, both on the court and off the court. And he's also the biggest face of an athlete when they speak out against social injustice and racial injustice. So what LeBron says means a lot. And he hasn't said anything yet. And I think people are waiting for that now. 

Robin Lundberg: But listen, LeBron has said things in the past and his actions have backed up his thought process, if it is as reported that he can both play and get his point across. What do you sense within the Lakers? Because in a team, you have a group of individuals, right. So it makes sense that you might have somebody like Dwight Howard, but then you have LeBron, Jared Dudley, Kyle Kuzma, who've expressed a desire to return. 

Melissa Rohlin: Well, it's interesting because LeBron James throughout the pandemic has been a huge advocate of getting back on the court and finishing the season. Ever since George Floyd was murdered, he has not spoken about basketball. He's only spoken about social justice issues, about police brutality. He started a group to end black voter suppression, but he has not weighed in on the resumption of the season. So we still don't know definitively where he stands on that presumptively throughout the pandemic. He definitely had been saying that he wants the season to resume. Dwight Howard then had the opposing opinion and said, you know, I don't think we should play. I don't think we should be entertainment right now. I think that distracts from the movement. That being said, I don't think there's necessarily dissension among the Lakers. We just haven't heard LeBron's take on it yet. And I think kind of like you alluded to, whatever LeBron says, everybody else is going to fall in line. 

Robin Lundberg: You know, Robert, the distraction word does come up. I said before the NFL would be about a month behind. So the NBA would have a chance to get its message out there front and center. Could LeBron and others use this as a way to put pressure on the league to keep this in front of its audience? 

Robert Littal: Well, I think it's important that we don't get distracted. And the overall message is that basketball is a secondary thing to what's really going on in our country right now. I think what LeBron and others are saying is that we can do both. A lot of times, unfortunately, as black people, we get put in a box and feel like we can only do one thing at one time. And if we're not doing the one thing that someone wants us to do, that means we're taken away from the other thing or we don't care about the other thing. So when you see players say, hey, we could do both. I think under normal circumstances, that wouldn't be a problem. I think the issue in this particular circumstance is the bubble, because it's very difficult to do things when you're basically a quarantine. And down at Disney World, you can't get out. You can't speak. You can't protest. You can't march. You can't do any of those things while you're in the bubble for a set period of time. And I think that's the main difference between trying to do both at a time like this in our country. 

Robin Lundberg: That's a good point. But I could also counter and say it means there's a captive audience and an opportunity for them when they're not playing right to put together dialog shows and stuff like that for the media that is readily available out in front of them. Robert. Melissa, appreciate your time on this topic. 

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