While the NBA's return-to-play plan seemed to be airtight, recent concerns over racial inequality and social justice in the United States have given many players pause.
However, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has long spoken out in favor of finishing the season, leading Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley to urge his peers to side with the four-time MVP -- with what appears to have been a tongue-in-cheek tweet about how LBJ runs the NBA, regardless of how many voices crop up to start legitimate conversations.
While Beverley is certainly entitled to his opinion, his statement is reductive. The insinuation that James's opinion is the only one that matters takes away from the platforms of stars like Kyrie Irving, who have made it clear that protesting racial inequality is more important to them than finishing a highly irregular NBA season.
Especially considering the NFL's shaky handling of the Colin Kaepernick situation, the NBA should allow its players to protest if they wish, as suppressing free expression will only serve to worsen the situation. As Shannon Sharpe pointed out on UNDISPUTED on Monday, Beverley's comments alienate over 100 NBA players who aired their concerns in a Friday conference call with Kyrie Irving.
While, as Sharpe points out, there is certainly an argument for each side of the problem, Beverley's comments disrespect the players who feel that basketball is not an effective way to inspire change.
Players who choose to return will assuredly reach a wide audience with in-game demonstrations or post-game comments, but it is irresponsible for Beverley to imply that those who do not want to return to basketball are in some way wrong, and that LeBron James' voice is more important than theirs. Players who dedicate their time to protests will still be heard, and their actions carry weight among their fans and communities.
The added stress of a pandemic only exacerbates concerns, as players may also choose to sit out as a matter of health. Either way, Beverley owes his NBA peers (and King James) an apology. Returning to play should be a decision that each player makes independently, which social justice and health concerns in mind.