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NBA and players agree to additional concrete steps to support social justice — what it means for the Suns

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The league will be back this weekend, with some firm action put into place by the NBA and NBPA.

Houston Rockets v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Four Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA and its players have come to an agreement on a return to play, with the players and governors agreeing on a set of actions they will jointly take to enact change in their communities and across the country.

Those include:

  • Establishing a Social Justice Coalition made up of players, coaches and governors to increase access to voting, promote civic engagement, and advocate for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
  • In cities where teams own their facilities, making them available as polling places or other sites capable of collecting ballots or registering voters.
  • Providing spots on game broadcasts for ads and PSAs centered around civic engagement and voter awareness.

The initiatives were announced in a joint press release from the NBA and the NBA Players’ Association.

However, a Suns spokesperson tells me Arizona deadlines are too close (early voting begins here in about five weeks) for Talking Stick Resort Arena to be ready in this capacity in time for this year’s election. Though the renovations might be complete by that time, then comes official occupancy guidelines as well as retrofitting the building for voting activities as opposed to basketball.

I haven’t received official word on whether the new practice facility in Arcadia could be used for voting activities, but it sounds like the same is true there.

On the other hand, Suns managing partner Robert Sarver got ahead of this and yesterday pledged to support meaningful criminal justice reform, so the team seems to be on-board to support its players in this effort.

As a reminder, the Phoenix Police Department, according to a study done by the City of Phoenix itself, led the United States in officer-involved shootings as recently as 2018, and was in the top 10 when adjusting for population and crime rate. Officer-involved shootings also increased across Maricopa County from 2017-18.

One easy change: The Suns and Mercury could terminate their partnership with Phoenix PD as part of the team’s security staff for games. The Suns’ website states that to enforce its security protocols, “Talking Stick Resort Arena event staff and Phoenix Police Officers are located throughout the arena.” Terminating that relationship would send a signal that the organization will not be officially involved with the department until it changes its ways and also ensure that the next violent incident doesn’t happen on team grounds.

There has been a clamoring lately over how much more team owners should be expected to do, and while certainly it is a shock to have players be so direct in their demands of owners, these are the people who have true power in their communities and more wealth than most players. Many easy changes can be made to be part of positive growth when it comes to violence against Black people and communities of color in this country.