Jackson’s friend George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 while in police custody. His death sparked nationwide protests, now in their third week, calling out racial injustice and seeking an end to police brutality.
Jackson, who has referred to Floyd as his brother because of their physical resemblance in addition to their close bond, has taken part in the protests and been vocal about his desire to get justice for his friend and reform police behavior. The 2003 NBA champion took to Instagram on Saturday to give his thoughts on the league’s attempt to resume the season in the midst of social upheaval.
“I love the NBA, man. That’s my family,” Jackson began. “But now ain’t the time to be playing basketball, y’all. Now ain’t the time. Playing basketball is going to do one thing: take all the attention off the task at hand right now and what we fighting for.
“Everybody’s going to be worried about the playoffs,” Jackson continued. “They’re going to have all that blasting all over the TV, and nobody’s going to be talking about getting justice for all these senseless murders by the police, and nobody’s going to be focused on the task at hand, bro.
“None of these white owners have spoken up. None of them are taking a stand. Yeah, they might post a video when the season starts of saying what we should do, but they ain’t doing nothing. Playing basketball ain’t going to do nothing but make them money and take the attention off what we’re fighting for, what we’re marching for. It’s bigger than all of us, and it’s bigger than the game. I’m sad that we still got to explain that to people, bro. Sad.”
The NBA, which halted play March 11, plans to resume its season with 22 teams. Players are set to report to their markets by June 22, with the league resuming regular season play July 30 at a single-site campus in suburban Orlando. On a Friday call involving more than 75 players, some expressed skepticism about health protocols and the idea of being separated from family for up to three months.
Others took stances similar to Jackson’s, suggesting the need for social change outweighs resuming the NBA season.
“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving said on the call, according to the Athletic. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls---. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.”
Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard agreed with Irving, telling CNN in a statement through his agent, “Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction.”
Irving’s teammate Garrett Temple disagreed, saying players receiving their paychecks will further empower their ability to combat social injustice.
“The difference in the economic gap between white America and black America is astronomical,” Temple told ESPN. “I can’t in good conscience tell my brethren to throw away millions of dollars in order to create change that I don’t see the direct impact of — if there was a direct impact of laws changing, that would be a different story.”
Houston Rockets guard Austin Rivers echoed Temple’s sentiment Saturday, writing that “99% of the NBA hasn’t made the money a guy like Kyrie has.”
“I love Kyrie’s passion toward helping this movement,” Rivers wrote in a reply to an Instagram post featuring Irving’s reported comments. “It’s admirable and inspiring. I’m with it … but not at the cost of the whole NBA and players’ careers. We can do both. We can play and we can help change the way black lives are lived. I think we have [to]! But canceling and boycotting [a] return doesn’t do that in my opinion. Guys want to play and provide and help change!!!!”