This week’s Sports Illustrated cover reads ‘A Nation Divided, Sports United.’ In the current climate following President Donald Trump’s comments that rebutted the continued protests to the social injustices that plague the United States of America, the cover perfectly captures the picture of what is American sports today.
This past week the sports world made its statement. The question is if it will continue and trickle into the NBA season. With preseason tipping off this weekend, the Atlanta Hawks and other NBA teams will face a decision of how they should appropriately handle a protest if there is one at all.
Hawks’ point guard Malcolm Delaney says the team has yet to discuss it but feels that if something is done on Sunday when the team faces the Miami Heat the Hawks need to be unified in their protest.
“We haven’t talked about it yet, to be honest, I don’t know what we’re going to do yet,” Delaney said. “There are mixed feelings about it on the team. Really, it’s an individual thing. If we decide to do something as a team, I think it’s got to be everybody all in or you just do whatever you feel is necessary for yourself. It looks bad when you’ve got the majority doing something and some people are off. It’s just something we’ve got to talk about.”
The NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been open about allowing players to express and protest in any way they see fit without a threat of fines or suspension. Hawks’ center Dewayne Dedmon appreciates the league’s support.
“We have a pretty good support system as far as whatever we decide to do, they [NBA leaders] support as far as Adam Silver,” Dedmon said. “Last year when it first came out [Colin Kaepernick’s protest] they sent a letter out saying whatever you’d like to do, it’s on you. There wasn’t going to be any fines or anything like that sent out. I feel like the NBA is really supportive of people who want to make statements. I really like what the NFL did, everybody kind of went behind Kap and kind of supported him on it.”
The topic of social injustice and protests isn’t something that all professional athletes feel they need to address. Delaney feels that those who decide to protest or not to protest should still be respected in the view.
“It’s all individual-based. We don’t feel obligated to do anything,” Delaney said. “Whether you say something or not, there’s not a right or wrong thing. If you want to put yourself out there then you’ve got to face whatever comes with that. Some people care, and some people don’t. It’s all individual. I can’t really speak on or say it’s wrong for somebody not to say anything, but just because we have a big platform doesn’t mean we have to do whatever the public wants us to do. It’s whatever you want to do.”
The division of the country is as evident as ever. Social media battles break out daily, with little discussion of understanding. For athletes, the conversation is almost unavoidable when stepping to the podium. Some athletes thrive in the conversations, others agree it needs to be had, though saddened that it has to be.
“At the end of the day, I wish we weren’t in this position,” Dedmon “I wish we didn’t have to answer these questions. I wish cops weren’t still killing African American kids. I wish things like that weren’t going on so that we didn’t have to make that statement. Just the fact that we do, hopefully we all stand together and get some change going.”