NBA Coaching Legend Phil Jackson Says League Is Too Political To Watch
Phil Jackson
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Former NBA coach and player Phil Jackson says the league has gotten so political that he doesn’t watch it anymore. 

Appearing on the “Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin” podcast, Jackson said since 2020, the league began catering to a “certain audience” in an attempt to bring them in, but in the process, began alienating many longtime NBA fans. The former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach called for professional basketball to be non-political, criticizing the NBA for social justice slogans that have been displayed on the court and jerseys. 

“I am not enjoying the game,” Jackson said. “That’s too bad. There’s a whole generation that doesn’t like the game.”

Jackson, 77,  said that the politicization of the NBA became too much as the league reacted to social unrest that followed the death of George Floyd while in police custody. During this time, which coincided with the pandemic and peak of government-mandated lockdowns, the league transitioned to a “bubble” where players, coaches, media, and other staff all traveled to Orlando in an attempt to protect themselves from COVID while being able to continue their season. 

“All the teams that could qualify went down there and stayed down there, no audience, and they had things on their back like ‘Justice’ and a funny thing happened,” Jackson said. “They made a funny thing like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked him down.’ My grandkids thought that was pretty funny to play up those names. I couldn’t watch that.”

During that time, the NBA embraced social justice buzzwords and slogans, plastering messages like “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice” on the court, jerseys, and even team buses. According to the Daily Mail, few players kept their last names on their jerseys, instead opting for “Justice.” The NBA also allowed players to kneel during the national anthem. 

“It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game, and they didn’t know it was turning other people off,” Jackson said. “People want to see sports as non-political. Politics stays out of the game. It doesn’t need to be there.”

NBA Bubble

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jackson is an 11-time NBA champion coach, winning six titles as head coach of the Bulls in the ‘90s and five with the Lakers in the 2000s. He played 12 seasons in the league and won two NBA championships in the 1970s with the New York Knicks.


According to a 2021 YouGov/Yahoo News poll, Jackson is not alone in his view that social justice advocacy intermingled with sports is difficult to watch. The poll found that nearly 50% of sports fans in the country changed their viewing habits because of political messaging. Eleven percent of viewers said they watch more sports because of it, but 34.5% said they watched less. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  NBA Coaching Legend Phil Jackson Says League Is Too Political To Watch