Stephen Jackson on players sitting out when season resumes: ‘Change has to happen now’

With the NBA gearing up to resume its season in Orlando, Florida, next month, some players in the league are considering sitting out largely due to the massive Black Lives Matter protests that have taken place across the country since George Floyd’s death last month.

More than 80 NBA and WNBA players participated in a Zoom call about the issue on Friday night, and Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reportedly led an impassioned argument against playing for that very reason.

Former NBA star Stephen Jackson, who has been one of the most outspoken sports figures since Floyd’s death, talked to The Athletic’s Shams Charania about that issue on Saturday. 

Making lasting change, he said, is the most important thing right now.

"We have to stop worrying about offending people, because we're the ones getting killed,” Jackson said, via Stadium. “We all have sons. We all have daughters … We have to take advantage of this moment. How long are we gonna put things more important than humanity? How long are we gonna put material things and games and stuff more important than people? 

“This is the moment we have to stop that and I think people understand that, but I think they have to get out of their comfort zone."

Jackson spent 14 seasons in the league from 2000-2014, and won a title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. He has been extremely vocal since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, as the two were close friends and both Houston natives.

The NBA will attempt to resume its season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida on July  30 with 22 teams. Irving, along with several other notable players — including Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Donovan Mitchell — have voiced support for sitting out. Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon said he’s talked with several players who are “super interested” in doing so, too. 

Other issues are likely to factor into that decision, too, including the COVID-19 pandemic, injury risk and more.

However some, like LeBron James and Austin Rivers, think it’s better to play and still advocate to make lasting societal change at the same time

While he didn’t specifically advocate for a boycott or cancelation of the season over this issue, Jackson wants to make sure the movement and momentum isn’t lost. 

“None of these white owners have spoken up,” Jackson said in an Instagram video he posted Saturday. “Playing basketball ain’t going to do nothing but make them money and take the attention of what we’re fighting for, what we’re marching for. It’s bigger than all of us, and it’s bigger than the game. It’s sad that we’ve still got to explain that to people, bro. It’s sad.”

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