LeBron James is not just the biggest star on the Lakers, but one of the most famous people in the world. He has the kind of fame and influence that leaves someone with a pretty extensive rolodex of contacts to call upon in times on need, and while the NBA playoffs were stopped on Wednesday as players debated on how to best proceed in the wake of their impromptu wildcat strike, James decided to call former President Barack Obama for some advice.
Obama was in favor of returning to play once the players seized the moment to work with the league’s owners to identify and implement actionable items to effect positive change, sources told ESPN.
In a statement, Obama’s office confirmed that he spoke to James and other players:
Statement from President Obama’s office on conversations with LeBron James and co: pic.twitter.com/87VdRKCrdN— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 29, 2020
On Friday, the league and National Basketball Players Association announced some of the type of aforementioned “actionable items” Obama recommended the players seek in a press release:
1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.
3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.
But even with that accomplished, the players aren’t done asking for Obama’s help. According to Charania, James and other players who spoke with Obama “broached forming a committee for player action that they want Obama involved in.” That is presumably the same coalition that has now been announced.
While it’s unknown if Obama will take them up on that request, it would seem to be a natural pairing of values, and is something to watch out for moving forward.