NBA players, Pope Francis meet at Vatican to talk social justice
Amid the bustle of free agency, five NBA players made a trip to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican in an effort to discuss social justice issues heading into the 2020-2021 season. The delegation of players includes Sterling Brown, Kyle Korver, Jonathan Isaac, Marco Belinelli, and Anthony Tolliver, who is currently serving as the union’s secretary-treasurer.
NBPA executive director Michele Roberts joined the group of players, as did several others. Here’s the press release from the union and a full list of the delegation:
NBPA's group included:
Michele Roberts, NBPA Executive Director
Sherrie Deans, NBPA Foundation Executive Director
Matteo Zuretti , NBPA Chief of International Relations
— NBPA (@TheNBPA) November 23, 2020
Pope Francis is now the proud owner of a commemorative basketball and an Orlando Magic jersey, after meeting with representatives from the NBPA earlier today at the Vatican. pic.twitter.com/KItmmVQ3VJ
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 23, 2020
An intermediary for Pope Francis reached out to the players’ association last week indicating the Pope wanted to learn more about how players had recently brought attention to pressing social justice issues and economic inequality — and what they planned for the future, union officials told ESPN.
The players previously made full use of their platform to fight for social justice, especially during the NBA restart in the bubble. Players were allowed by the league to put their personal advocacies on the back of their jerseys in order to shed more awareness to the public.
“Black Lives Matter” also adorned the courts where the games were held, while the players constantly wore warmup shirts with the word “Vote” imprinted on them. The players also had the freedom to kneel or stand during the playing of the national anthem before games.
The Milwaukee Bucks chose not to play a playoff game after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot and killed in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This led to mass postponements of games and nearly ended the NBA season right there.
Hopefully, both the NBPA and the Pope will be able to fruitfully discuss matters that will help the league continue to use its platform to put a spotlight on relevant social issues moving forward.