Los Angeles Lakers centre Dwight Howard says his opposition to the NBA’s return in Orlando isn’t about stopping basketball from being played. Instead, he and other players that have spoken up recently want to make sure all voices are heard in important NBA discussions.
“Contrary to popular belief, we are not attempting to halt the resumption of the basketball season in Orlando,” Howard said in a statement provided to Shams Charania of The Athletic. “Our main objective is to raise awareness and gain transparency on the things that concern us collectively. Many of our fellow players are afraid to voice their concerns and are continuing to follow along with what they believe they have to.”
This comes days after Howard said in a statement to CNN that “Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment and will only be a distraction.”
Howard, along with Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley among others, have formed a new player coalition specifically to question whether a July return for basketball is the right thing to do considering the current social justice issues being raised in the United States and around the world and to make sure players’ voices are heard when it comes to health and safety concerns.
The coalition, which also includes WNBA players, sent a statement to ESPN earlier this week laying out their main concerns.
“We are combating the issues that matter most: We will not accept the racial injustices that continue to be ignored in our communities. We will not be kept in the dark when it comes to our health and well-being. And we will not ignore the financial motivations/expectations that have prevented us historically from making sound decisions,” the statement read.
The NBA reportedly told players that they have until June 24 to decide whether they will participate in the games in Orlando. If players opt not to play, for health and safety concerns or concerns about social justice issues, they will not be punished.
“Listen, it’s not an ideal situation,” commissioner Adam Silver said of the challenges facing the NBA’s plan to return on ESPN Monday. “We are trying to find a way to our own normalcy in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of essentially a recession or worse with 40 million unemployed, and now with enormous social unrest in the country. And so as we work through these issues, I can understand how some players may feel, that it’s not for them… it may be for family reasons, it may be for health reasons they have, or it may be because they feel — as some players have said very recently — that their time is best spent elsewhere.”
In his statement Wednesday, Howard said those who choose not to play will still support their fellow players.
“The game will go on with or without those who decide not to play because like we are taught, we are easily replaceable,” Howard said. “We are also in full support of our brothers whether we decide to enter or not enter the Orlando bubble…
“We support the NBA but in order to do that properly, we must support every single one of us that represents that name.”