The positive action of NBA players in the wake of the killing of George Floyd will inspire young fans to effect impactful change in their own local communities, says Heatcheck's Mo Mooncey.
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Numerous NBA players have participated in peaceful protests following the death of Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he begged for air.
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to help lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta on Saturday night alongside Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon. On Sunday, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Justin Jackson and Maxi Kleber of the Dallas Mavericks, as well as team owner Mark Cuban, attended a vigil at the Dallas Police headquarters.
New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball posted a picture on Instagram on Sunday of himself attending a protest in Chino Hills, California. Sixers forward Tobias Harris marched in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Minnesota Timberwolves, posted a video showing their players, including franchise star Karl-Anthony Towns attending a demonstration.
On The NBA Show, Heatcheck panellist Mooncey said: "The NBA is probably the most progressive sports league in the world. Where other sports leagues and organisations who penalise their players for speaking out on such causes, the NBA empowers its players to have platforms to use their voices to bring attention to important issues.
"Getting through to the young people is such an important factor in inspiring the next generation to be on the right side of history because they look up to players like LeBron James. They are more than just athletes, that's one of LeBron's own slogans. In the past, critics have told him to "shut up and dribble" but he is using his voice, as are a lot of other players in the league, to make a real change.
"Hopefully, the fans of the league who see NBA players speaking will be inspired to do to the same and use their own voices to impact change in their local communities. Older people might be stuck in their ways. I feel it's up to people like us, people born in the 1990s, to challenge anything that we come across that isn't right. The fact that NBA players are setting such a good example and if everyone takes some level of inspiration from this, then change can start to happen."
ESPN senior writer Marc J Spears joined The NBA Show and described the impact of the Floyd protests in his hometown, Oakland, California.
"I do worry because of Oakland's past of protesting that people think they can come here and act the fool, not having peaceful protests. Most of the buildings that have been damaged during these protests have taken the focus off what the tragic murder of George Floyd brought and what the movement is about," he said.
"Those people aren't from here. People from [Oakland] aren't doing that. Most of these buildings are minority-owned. People worked hard to get those businesses. We don't have [US department store] Nordstrom here. Most of the stores here are 'Mom and Pop' stores that people celebrate and enjoy."
Spears said he had been left "exhausted" and had cried a lot in the aftermath of Floyd's death but places great store in the ability of young people to create change to an America he described as a "nightmarish, unfair land".
"I think things are finally getting in the right direction. My sister said it best. She's like, 'Marc, why should we trust that people care now? They didn't care a month ago with [the killing of] Ahmaud Arbery', he said. "Rodney King was my generation. For my parents, it was the civil right movement. You can go all the way back to slavery. Nobody cared before. Why should we trust now?"
"Then she said, 'Marc, we can't change the past but hopefully they care now so the next generation doesn't have to cry like we cry'. Our hope to me is in the young people. Folks in our generation are already screwed up but to me there is hope in the youth. They don't see colour like we do. They don't care what colour you are, what your sexual orientation is or where you are from. Some will have relatives that are married to a partner of a different race. My wife is Indian, her family welcomed me from the day I got there. And I'm not the only black person in the family.
"I'm exhausted, I have cried a lot, but let's change it. We can't change the past, this dark nightmarish, murderous, wrong, unfair land but they can change the future. This is the spark. Hopefully, real people show us love and it's a different day."
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Spears' faith in youth to effect change is something that resonated with Heatcheck's Ovie Soko on The NBA Show.
"Like Marc said, it is tiring and exhausting. A lot of people are tired and upset. I don't have the answers but one thing Marc said that resonates with me is that we have to look to the future," he said. "We have to look to the younger generations. These are issues that have been going on for so long. I believe it can be changed. I see younger people and they don't think that same way. We can reach them.
"It's one thing not being able to reach people of older generations who are a little bit set in their ways and have benefited from the existing structure of the system. To get those people to change their minds, I don't know how that's possible.
"But the younger lot aren't so set in their ways. I feel we can change their hearts. To do that, to change the inside of people, that is ultimately the goal. That's where the biggest win in a situation like this will come. When people are not so worried about being politically correct but more concerned with their internal values and making a positive change on the inside. That's where the biggest growth will happen."