The National Basketball Association (NBA) celebrates Black History Month every season but this season the NBA’s celebration will extend beyond February. The NBA will host a league-wide celebration that supports the pursuit of racial justice.
After a time of great civil unrest in 2020, NBA players and organizations became more active and vigilant in confronting systemic racism and social injustice. Players used their platform to spread awareness of the injustice happening throughout our nation. The NBA and its players continue to spread awareness with new initiatives beginning in February and beyond.
During the month of February, NBA players are wearing custom-designed warm-ups that read, “BUILT BY BLACK HISTORY.” The shirt, designed by Nike, uses African quilt patterns to fill in the “BUILT BY” text. While the “BLACK HISTORY” text is filled in with significant dates from NBA history.
The featured dates reflect when Black trailblazers broke barriers in the NBA:
1950: Chuck Cooper, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Harold Hunter, and Earl Lloyd became the first Black players in the NBA.
1958: Bill Russell was the first Black player to be voted NBA MVP.
1965: Oscar Robertson became the first Black president of the NBPA.
1966: Bill Russell was hired by the Celtics as the NBA’s first Black head coach.
1972: The Milwaukee Bucks hired Wayne Embry as the NBA’s first Black general manager and team president.
2004: Robert Johnson became the first Black majority owner in U.S. professional sports, purchasing the Charlotte Bobcats expansion team.
2020: The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) joined together, making social justice a priority in the NBA restart. The NBA Foundation was founded to address issues of racial injustice and invest in economic empowerment in the Black community.
The NBA and NBPA came together during the NBA bubble to create the NBA Foundation, which will be donating $300 million over the next decade to economically empower Black communities through education and youth employment.
The $300 million will be reached by each team’s owner giving a total of $1 million per year for the next ten years. $2 million in grant money will be given to 7 different organizations that aim to create more educational and economic opportunities in Black communities.
In addition to the monetary contributions being made, the NBA’s web series Barrier Breakers will center on the voices, experiences, and perspectives of Black players, coaches and employees.
Dallas Mavericks head coach and president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, Rick Carlisle spearheaded a movement for coaches and players to protest police brutality against and improve racial injustice. Before speaking with the press on Feb. 1, Carlisle took a moment to acknowledge the beginning of Black History Month and its importance.
The majority of the NBA are persons of color so it makes sense that Black History Month draws a lot of passion from coaches and players alike.
Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns is president of the NBPA, he has been a vocal leader for social justice in the league. He has taken up his own month-long initiative to celebrate Black History Month that extends beyond the NBA and the Suns.
Paul has partnered with Goalsetter, a Black-owned finance app. Together, Paul and Goalsetter launched a Black History Month campaign aimed at youth of color, to teach them how to save money.
“Black History Month is a reminder of hundreds of years that blacks were the workforce and consumer class in the United States,” Paul said in a statement. “This partnership is to learn from our history and create a strong future for the next generation of black and brown children to become saviors and investors. Financial education is to create an equal America. It’s a necessary and important factor.”
Paul also has a deep admiration for HBCUs and as president of the NBPA has helped make them a priority. As part of the NBA’s plan to celebrate Black history beyond February, the NBA and NBPA have announced that they will commit more than $2.5 million in funds and resources to HBCUs and COVID-19 equity efforts.
NBA All-Star 2021 will be held Sunday, March 7. During the events HBCUs will be highlighted as well as the disparity of the impact COVID-19 has on communities of color.
All-Star Sunday will also feature musical groups and storytelling by HBCU alumni and students. The NBA is certainly keeping the celebration alive beyond Black History Month.
“In addition to the festivities on the court, the All-Star Game will honor the vital role HBCUs play in our communities and focus attention and resources on COVID-19 relief, particularly for the most vulnerable,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.
Featured image: Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams with a moment of quiet time before his team takes to the floor against the Utah Jazz on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline