Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How the NBA is benefiting from Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick receives a bouquet of flowers with a note that reads "Colin, thank you for everything you've done for us. We appreciate your generosity.- Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner"

According to all (zero) of my sources, this probably never happened.

But it damn well should have.

We're now over a month removed from the knee that started it all. Typically in the game of football, a knee is a sign of running out the clock for a victory. In Colin's case, the world came undone.

Every media outlet, every follower on twitter and even your newly-found patriotic Aunt Sophie on Facebook was dialed in to what was going to happen next, eating up every detail possible as the story developed. Seemingly everyone had their opinions ready and eyes glued, and the NBA is no exception.

Flashback to July 13th, where the NBA's biggest stars in Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul took center stage at the annual ESPY awards in an inspiring message to urge athletes to be more socially active on issues, specifically focused on racial ones.

"...let's use this moment as a call to action to all professional athletes to educate ourselves, explore these issues, speak up, use our influence and renounce all violence and, most importantly, go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them. We all have to do better."- Lebron James

And in this very moment, everybody nodded in unison to those words uttered by Lebron. For decades, fans had beaten the dead horse of athletes not using the platform given to them to stand against what's wrong and take a stand against any form of injustice. Looking back, Kaepernick's moment had been building for awhile, it just took a different sport and a different form of animal to shine.

After the death of Eric Garner, the iconic #ICantBreathe shirts were donned by many players in the NBA, reaching little-to-no resent from any community. It was a simple yet powerful way of showing support on an important social issue. Little dabbles of players making statements left and right, but no true ripple in the public waters compared to the splitting of ocean caused by Colin's knee.

In a league that's heavily dominated by African-American's, it's surely surprising that America's uproar didn't originate in the NBA, concerning social injustice. Lucky for Commissioner Silver, football is this country's pride and joy, so the media does a phenomenal job of resting the spotlight on the three letter shield. Ratings wise, this does haunt basketball in one respect. However, the NBA actually received a blessing in disguise by being in the shadow of the shield.

Let's not forget, the NFL is a business. The NBA is a business, and just like any other business, the two most important goals are making money, and maintaining a positive public perception. It's without doubt that the NFL took a hit with Kaepernick's stand, or lack-thereof. In a situation like this, there's no guide or manual on how handle public perception. Your best bet in this scenario is to make judgments and decisions based off prior examples, something the NFL didn't have, but the NBA will.

So instead of answering to the bell, the Association has the privilege of answering at the bell. In other words, there was a growing sense with all of our country's race problems that somewhere, something was going to happen. Lebron & friends made it evident this summer, that they were willing to take a stand for their beliefs.

Whether or not the NBA is on par to match the NFL's pre-game anthem attention is still up for debate. The Association does indeed have a rule (Article H) requiring players to stand while the national anthem is being played, with no solidified punishment put in place, at least for now.

About three weeks removed from the start of the regular season, the NBA and their players union sent a letter to all players expressing their desire to avoid any undesired controversy, stating  "We will be working with your teams during training camp to get your thoughts and ideas." 

Contrary to it's gridiron counterpart, the NBA has been at the forefront of progression on issues for quite sometime now. It's evident that the NBA recognizes they have the opportunity to work with their players on social issues, and even preliminary talks show more encouraging signs than what went down with Colin Kaepernick.

With the NBA preseason now underway, we're sure to see some spoilers on how a majority of players will handle everything going on. Regardless of the form of protest used, if any, it's clear the Association will have been well prepared for all and any attention during the Star Spangled Banner thanks in-part to the NFL media circus that has been the past month.

Congratulations Mr. Goodell, you finally did something of good nature, whether intentional or not.

The NBA season tips off on Tuesday, October 25th.

Donnie Druin is an award-winning sports writer from the Arizona Newspaper Association. Follow him on Twitter @DonnieDruin to stay updated on everything going on in the world of sports, or to scold him for sitting on his couch while the national anthem plays on television.

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