Lakers star Dwight Howard believes the return of the NBA would be an unwelcome distraction from the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The league is still negotiating the details of a 2020 restart over three months after the coronavirus pandemic forced the season to be suspended. There are said to be plans to resume the regular season from July 30 on a modified schedule, although a handful of players reportedly expressed concerns about injury risks during a conference call this week.
On the same call involving 80 players on Friday, Nets point guard Kyrie Irving reportedly led calls for basketball not to return while protests against racial injustice and police brutality continue across the United States.
Anti-racism demonstrations have been held across the world following the death of George Floyd. Renewed protests have occurred in Atlanta after Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police at a drive-through on Friday, an incident that led to the resignation of the city's police chief.
On Sunday, eight-time All-Star Howard issued a statement via his agent to CNN in which he made it clear he would give up the chance to win a first NBA Championship for "the unity of my people."
Dwight Howard statement, provided by his agent, to CNN: pic.twitter.com/sk9uSSHlpp— Jill Martin (@ByJillMartin) June 14, 2020
Howard's statement in full:
"I agree with Kyrie. Basketball, or entertainment period, isn't needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us players, but we have resources at hand [the] majority of our community don't have. And the smallest distraction for them can start a trickle-down effect that may never stop. Especially with the way the climate is now. I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that's just to [sic] beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families. This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families. This is where our Unity starts. At home! With Family!! European Colonisation stripped us of our rich history, and we have yet to sit down and figure us out. The less distractions, the more we can put into action into rediscovering ourselves. Nations come out of families. Black/African American is not a Nation or Nationality. It's time Our Families became their own Nations. No Basketball till we get things resolved."
The Lakers held the top spot in the Western Conference standings before the league's suspension at 49-14.