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NBA plans to paint ‘Black Lives Matter’ on courts in Orlando

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The NBA is planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the court inside both sidelines in all three arenas it will use at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, when it resumes the 2019-20 season late next month, league sources told ESPN.

The WNBA is also discussing painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court when it begins its abbreviated 2020 season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, sources said.

Sources also said some WNBA players have suggested in talks with league higher-ups that players wear shooting shirts with “Say Her Name” written on them in an attempt to keep attention on female victims of police brutality — including Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her home in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.

Players have insisted the fight for racial equality and social justice be a central part of the NBA’s return to play and the WNBA’s new season. Several NBA players considered skipping the NBA’s Orlando resumption to focus on social justice issues. Several WNBA players, including Renee Montgomery of the Atlanta Dream and Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics, are sitting out the upcoming WNBA season to focus on social justice.

On a conference call with reporters Friday, leaders of both the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association said the league and union were discussing several methods of using the NBA’s platform in Orlando to call attention to racial equality, social justice and police brutality. Over the weekend, Chris Paul, president of the players’ union, told ESPN that the league and union were collaborating to allow players to wear uniforms with personalized messages linked to social justice on the backs of their jerseys in place of players’ last names.

The killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 — with one officer, Derek Chauvin, since charged with second-degree murder after kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes as Floyd reiterated that he could not breathe — spurred nationwide protests. It followed the killings of Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery — a 25-year-old Black man who was chased down by three white men and shot by one of them during a jog in Georgia in late February. All three men were indicted on murder charges last week.

Several high-profile players in both leagues participated in protests around the country.

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Raptors’ Fred VanVleet says ‘terrible timing’ for NBA to restart, but will play

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Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said it was difficult to decide whether to take part in the NBA restart to its season amid the coronavirus pandemic and protests for social justice.

Ultimately, though, he decided to play.

“It sucks,” VanVleet said in a conference call Monday of having to make such a choice. “It’s terrible timing. But that’s been 2020 for us. We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense. But life goes on. We’re all young, Black guys. None of us want to give any money back. I don’t think that we should. I think that money can be used in a number of different ways.

“This is not going to end this summer regardless, or over the next couple of months. This issue, racial injustice, social injustice, police brutality, all these things are not ending anytime soon. Our fight was long-term. That was part of my decision.

“But if the league, or more of my guys would have come together and said we didn’t want to play, I would have sat out as well. I wouldn’t have even fought it. I think most of us decided to play. It’s something we’ll have to live with. I trust that my heart’s in the right place and I’m doing enough to make change.”

The Raptors became the first team to travel to Florida ahead of next month’s restart, having decamped to Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers for two weeks before heading into the NBA’s bubble inside Disney World on July 9.

And while Raptors president Masai Ujiri said he didn’t have to convince any of his players — all of whom are participating in the restarted season — to play, he said there were teamwide discussions that he thought were important to get everyone on the same page.

“I think it’s important that we communicate with all our players and this thing takes time,” he said. “It’s a process and we all put our heads together with our organization as much as we can, especially in a situation like this.

“It’s a focus on safety, it’s a focus on individual safety and their families, too. … We have to get everybody involved. Our coaches were involved, our players were involved in this decision to go there.”

Ujiri, the NBA’s only Black president of basketball operations, said the platform the NBA has as part of this return to play in Orlando is something he believes he, the Raptors as an organization and the league as a whole can take advantage of to promote changes in both the NBA and society.

“First of all, this is a really interesting time,” Ujiri said. “Black lives do matter, and we’re going really going to use this platform, I think. It’s continuous, right? This is something that I don’t think is going to stop. Because, so there’s so much, so, so much to be addressed. We have had really good discussions and meetings.

“I think you saw what Adam said on the league level. I think that’s, that’s first and foremost of what the league would do. I think we’re concentrating on a few things. What does the NBA do long term, in terms of what resources are they going to put into this? I think there’s the discussion of Black executives and Black positions in the NBA. And then there’s a discussion of how you use the campus at Orlando, to really show the world that we can be a voice, [the] players can be a voice.”

Players can have personalized social justice, social cause or charity messages on the backs of their jerseys instead of their last names during the upcoming restart, as The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears reported this weekend.

“Yeah, I’ve thought about it,” VanVleet said. “I think it’s cool … something that we’ve talked about in some of our meetings is how do we get some of our ‘propaganda’ — so to call it — to pop out because the only way this is being consumed is on TV. So I think that’s going to go a long way and it’s something that will last for years to come, people will always look back on these games and the first thing they’ll see is whether there’s a fist on the court or a name and they’ll have to look and say, ‘What is that?’ or ‘Who is Breonna Taylor?’ or ‘who is George Floyd?’ if that’s what guys choose.”

VanVleet said he wasn’t sure yet what he would say, as he wanted to have conversations with people in his life before committing to whatever message he chooses to display on his jersey.

“My high school coach, my step-dad, a couple people that I look up to — my financial advisor. Older guys who have been around for a while,” he said.
“My high school coach is an African American studies teacher so I respect his perspective as an older white guy who has a master’s in African American studies.”

As far as life inside the bubble itself goes, VanVleet said he admitted he was concerned about Florida’s rapidly rising COVID-19 case count, and said part of why he was willing to be there was that his family didn’t have to be there with him, which could’ve made them vulnerable to the virus.

Players will have the option to have family members join them if they are on one of the eight teams that advance past the first round of the playoffs — something the defending champion Raptors expect to do. VanVleet said the decision to bring his family with him is something that he’ll figure out as the date draws closer.

“I’m here by myself for awhile and I still will be able to make that decision if they are able to come before the date that allows them to come,” he said. “I will be there for a month or more before they are actually allowed to come. So I will have some sense of what it is like and what things are like and how risky or dangerous it is.

“I definitely respect guys that took the stand to sit out for whatever reason. But my choice was to come play. I’m not right and they’re not wrong. It’s just a personal choice for everybody.”

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High school vs. now – see Steph Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns and others

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Everyone likely has that awkward photo from high school, even top athletes.

“High school vs. now” was trending on Twitter on Monday, and some teams dusted off the digital scrapbooks to show old photos of their stars.



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Magic’s Markelle Fultz – Can still champion causes while playing

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Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz is confident that the momentum NBA players have built in the fight for social justice can continue as the league looks to restart next month.

“I think as long as we’re safe, this is something that we all need,” Fultz said of returning to play during a Monday conference call with reporters. “Basketball is a big part of a lot of people’s lives. Not just ours, but our families, people that just watch it. So I feel as though there’s two ways to this path of the NBA returning. But I feel as though we can make it the best of both worlds, as long as we’re doing everything that we can do for not only ourselves but standing up for what’s right in this world.”

The 22-year-old believes there is a lot of support within the league for players to continue speaking up about issues they feel passionately about. He spoke of the unity players will need to get out their message across the various platforms the NBA provides. One way Fultz and his teammates are proceeding is by putting together a video about several social issues.

“For example, we all came together and said that we want to do a video,” Fultz said. “A video coming out where we all say different parts that’s going out. Just to speak on what’s going on in the world and what we feel is what’s right and what’s wrong. … I feel as though we’re going to use our resources to try and figure out what is the best way we can help change the world.

“Another thing … we had a chance to get on a call and just trying to help people learn [about] the right to vote. To have a chance to vote, to register to vote, so they can vote and make a big change. I feel as though that’s the first step. And so it can be just a little thing of telling people to go register to vote.”

Fultz also noted that he is hoping to wear a close friend’s name on the back of his jersey when the season restarts. Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and players’ union president Chris Paul told ESPN’s The Undefeated on Saturday that the union and the league are collaborating so that players can wear various messages of support on the backs of their jerseys for social causes.

“I’ve thought about a name that I want to put on the back of my jersey,” Fultz said. “I actually had a brother, not blood, but a close friend who I grew up with in high school, his name’s Jaylen Brown. He was killed a couple years back. And I wear a wristband every game for him, and I think about putting his name on the back of my jersey. I haven’t been 100 percent sure. I don’t know if my team is planning on doing something unified or not, but that’s been one thought in my mind. … I think that putting his name would mean a lot not only to myself but what’s going on in the world.”

As far as basketball goes, Fultz says he is feeling “great” and has gotten some work in on a hoop he bought a few days after the league shut down on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fultz said it will be strange to play at Walt Disney World while being so close to his Orlando-area home.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since they started talking about [the possibility of playing at Disney],” Fultz said. “At first I thought we were going to be able to stay at home, so I was a little excited, but then when I realized we’re going to have to go in the bubble too … I understand the reasons why. I’ve kind of been thinking about it like it’s going to be an AAU tournament.”

The Magic enter play next month with a 30-35 record, a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“You go on the road — sometimes you have tournaments in your hometown, but you still stay in a hotel,” Fultz said of the AAU tournament analogy. “I’ve been trying to think positive about it. … It’s going to be a challenge, but I think that’s what’s going to make it fun for me and also some of my teammates. But also, it’s kind of nerve-wracking not to know how it’s going to be. Also being with no fans. I think that’s another thing that’s going to be a big difference. But I’ve been thinking about the positive about it. I think it’s going to be just like a practice scrimmage atmosphere, which I think some people play better in.”

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