Former President Barack Obama gave advice to a number of NBA players, including the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and the Oklahoma Thunder’s Chris Paul amid discussions about a possible playoff boycott following an officer-involved shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that left a 29-year-old black man in critical condition.
CNN reports that Paul reached out to the former president last week following the shooting in Kenosha, to ask whether Obama would consider speaking with a small group of NBA players who were considering drastic action to draw attention to social justice causes.
The call included LeBron James, who is widely believed to have led a player effort to force the NBA to cancel its playoffs — an effort that ended with the NBA postponing, but not canceling, games and pledging to have the playoffs go forward as planned.
The players, including James, ultimately agreed to end the boycott after just one day citing fears that other, less well-paid professional basketball players, might find themselves in dire financial straits if the season came to a swift and unplanned conclusion.
“Before NBA players decided to resume playing, National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul reached out to Barack Obama, a person familiar with the call told CNN and asked the former President if he would offer his counsel to a group of NBA players,” the outlet reported. “The source also confirmed that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was on the call. It was Paul, the source said, who organized the discussion.”
Obama’s spokesperson, Kate Hill, told the network that Obama simply provided the players with an opportunity to discuss the matter.
“As an avid basketball fan, President Obama speaks regularly with players and league officials,” she said. “When asked, he was happy to provide advice on Wednesday night to a small group of NBA players seeking to leverage their immense platforms for good after their brave and inspiring strike in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting.”
Obama reportedly helped the small group of players establish terms under which they would agree to return to play.
“They discussed establishing a social justice committee to ensure that the players’ and league’s actions this week led to sustained, meaningful engagement on criminal justice and police reform,” Hill said.
The NBA struggled with its own players last week after the Jacob Blake shooting. The Milwaukee Bucks announced that they were boycotting their playoff game altogether in protest of the incident, which saw police officers, reportedly called to the scene by Blake’s former girlfriend who claimed Blake was defying a restraining order, tangle physically with Blake before he escaped, returned to a gray SUV, opened the door, and reached down into the floor on the driver’s side. A Kenosha police officer, holding Blake by the back of his shirt, fired seven rounds into Blake’s back.
Blake is said to be paralyzed from the waist down. The officers are suspended pending an investigation.
The NBA resumed play after a one-day boycott last week.
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