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The NBA’s smart approach to protests



Another NFL season is soon to begin, which means another round of NFL protests and controversy. In preseason games last week, The Washington Post reported that multiple players either raised fists or knelt during the national anthem, with some of the same players speaking to the media about racial issues. And to the surprise of no one, Donald Trump ignored these issues and tweeted that most NFL players are unable to define their outrage.

As the NFL looks to deal with this issue for a third straight season, some may ask why the NBA and other sports leagues have not been embroiled in said controversy to the same extent. It is true that to some extent, the NBA has things easier. Less attention is paid to the NBA being a smaller league, and its fanbase is younger and more progressive.

But the real reason is that the NBA’s leadership has shown intelligence and moral fortitude in contrast to the NFL’s spineless attempts to assuage everyone. The NFL will likely never make the anthem issue go away entirely, but they could both lower its impact on the league and show its commitment towards fighting for social justice if they took a look at what the NBA does.

Giving Players a voice

Did you know the NBA bans players from kneeling during the national anthem? As SB Nation points out, the official rulebook in 2016-17 stated that players “are to stand and line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem. In the 1995-96 season, the NBA used that rule to harshly punish Muslim player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf for not standing for the anthem and drove him out of the league.

How far would the NBA go in enforcing the rule if a player knelt today? No one knows, because no one has knelt. But while no one has knelt during the anthem, that does not mean NBA players have been banned from making political gestures during the warm-ups and on the court. Players have worn “I can’t breathe” shirt memorializing those who engaged in struggles with police. Elite coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich regularly criticize President Trump. LeBron James famously tweeted that Trump was a “bum.”

The NBA has consistently stood by its players, stating that they have the right to speak and protest. Meanwhile, the NFL in May attempted to have its teams fine players for protesting during the anthem, but they couldn’t do it.  The pressure from the players, the social media fans and the millions of fans who regularly livestream from outside the US, was too much. NFL owners appear to be more interested in fulfilling Trump’s mercurial wishes than they are in doing right by their players, but this antagonistic stance only spurs players to kneel, causing more controversy and hurting the league.

Politics and Workers’ Rights

Now is the NBA’s generous policy solely due to commissioner Adam Silver’s enlightened rule? Hardly. Part of it is due to the different natures of the two leagues. The majority of NFL players are far more replaceable than the majority of NBA players, which means that the NBA must consider the players’ wishes.

But why are NBA players more replaceable? NBA fans may argue that NBA players are more skilled, but there is no shortage of players able to replace the NBA’s role players. NBA players are less replaceable because they have guaranteed contracts while NFL players do not.

NBA players cannot be waived at a moment’s notice for temporary underperformance or for saying things which the Commissioner may not agree with. And while the NBA players’ union has certain issues and has made bad decisions (such as the refusal to go along with a cap smoothing plan which would have prevented Golden State from breaking the league), they have the freedom and power to make mistakes in contrast to a powerless NFL union.

In summation, the NBA has granted its workers, the players, greater rights both from a financial and political perspective. This makes the players feel like they are respected and part of the system, which lessens their incentives to make grand gestures like kneeling which invite controversy. The NFL by contrast exploits its players as much as possible, which creates rancor and makes them less inclined to adhere to league directives. The contrast between the two leagues and the different results could even serve as an example to our global economy, as nations must figure out how to ensure social stability under globalization.

There are those who argue that the NBA can still do much better to fight for social justice. But by giving NBA players guaranteed contracts, letting them speak freely without punishing them, and showing a commitment towards listening to their concerns, the NBA has managed to avoid the mines which the NFL has consistently blundered into for the past few years.

Denver Nuggets

Nuggets’ Mike Malone Emotional Following Denver School Shooting



Mike Malone

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone became emotional during a press conference discussing a school shooting that left one student dead took place at a Highlands Ranch public charter school in his suburban Denver community.

Malone talked how his two middle school-aged daughters, who attend a different school, had experienced a lockdown for the second time in a three week period due to a shooting threat, as he called for something to change to stop this epidemic.

One student was killed and eight injured during Tuesday’s shooting at the STEM school in Highlands Ranch, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office. According to their report, two suspects are currently in custody.

“The [STEM] school is literally two minutes away from where I live, right down Broadway in Highlands Ranch,” Malone said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “My wife and daughters know people. As a coach, I am somewhat of a recluse, but it’s a close community.

“It’s not just Highlands Ranch. It’s not just Colorado. This is an epidemic. And it continues to happen. And that is the frustrating thing. How do you stop it? Again, gun control, laws, whatever it might be. I am not a politician. I don’t want to sit up here on a soapbox. I just want everybody back at Highlands Ranch to know that we’re with you and that is very important for them to know.”

There was a moment of silence prior to Game 5 between the Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

Malone said that he was at the Pepsi Center preparing for Game 5 when his wife, Jocelyn, called to inform him about the shooting and to let him know that their daughters were safe but scared.

“The thing that makes you angry is that she’s telling me how scared my daughters are in their schools, texting her, because they don’t know what’s going on — it’s a lockout,” Malone said.

“Where’s this shooter? Is it at our school? Some other school? The kids go to school, they should be going to school to learn, have fun, be with their friends. Not worry about an active shooter. … It’s just frustrating, and it gets you angry because it hits home. And that’s how I felt today.”

While Malone stated that he would likely wouldn’t bring up the shooting with his team prior to Game 5, he did discuss how he would address the topic with his daughters.

“That’s a great question, and you know, that’s something I haven’t even really thought about,” Malone said emotionally. “I’m texting my daughter, telling her she’s going to be OK. I don’t even know if she will be OK.

“This is every parent’s worst nightmare, and it’s something that when you see your kids go to school in the morning, it’s ‘Have a great day’ and just assume everything is going to be all right. And as we all know, it’s not. So you figure it out.”

The STEM Highlands Ranch campus is not far from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Columbine was where one of the most infamous school mass shootings in American history took place back on April 20th, 1999.

“I know thoughts and prayers are never enough,” Malone continued. “And from myself, our team, our organization, our thoughts and prayers are with all those families, students, school administrators, everybody that was there today. It’s a tragedy.

“I would like to say a thank you to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department that was there, on top of it, in matter of minutes and all the first responders that were there and allowing that to not become worse than it was,” Malone added. “But it’s a shame. My girls have been in a lockout twice in the last month. I’m not a politician, I don’t have the answers, but something must change. So I just want to make sure that I acknowledge what happened today in my backyard and all those families are on my mind.”

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Brooklyn Nets

Nets’ D’Angelo Russell Cited for Marijuana Possession at Airport



Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell was cited for marijuana possession on Wednesday night at LaGuardia Airport in New York, according to USA Today’s A.J. Perez.

Per the report, during a routine search of a checked bag police found marijuana hidden inside a container, located in Russell’s bag, that was made to look like an Arizona Iced Tea can.

Russell would be forced to enter the league’s marijuana program if he is convicted of possession, however, he won’t face suspension until a third violation.

While Russell received a summons to appear in court following the search, he was allowed to continue on his flight to Louisville, Kentucky.

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Boston Celtics

Celtics’ General Manager Danny Ainge Suffers Mild Heart Attack



Boston Celtics general manager and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suffered a mild heart attack on Tuesday in Milwaukee, according to a team press release.

Ainge, 60, was with the team in Milwaukee for the first round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Bucks.

“Been in constant communication with his family,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, according to ESPN. “He’s resting well and feels better. Obviously, always scary, but he’s got a good support network. Obviously, expect a full recovery and he’s feeling good. So that’s all positive. Certainly scary.”

Ainge, who suffered what is described as a mild heart attack back in April 2009, received immediate medical attention and is expected to make a full recovery, and is expected to return to Boston soon.

“Danny is just one of those guys who takes time out of his life, his day when he’s doing his schedule, to make sure you’re all right,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “He constantly checks in on us, my family, and things like that. Just personally, for me, he’s been another mentor. For me, from when I first got here, Danny was the person I see every day and am talking to, so he means a lot to my life as well. … I just hope he has a speedy recovery.”

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