I always get excited during the playoff season in the NBA. I don’t follow basketball very closely, but I do enjoy the Finals. It’s a time to see the hard work and dedication of two teams come to fruition. It’s also a time for fans to celebrate their respective hometowns and the talented athletes who represent them.
I am also excited about watching and supporting the NBA this year because of their social justice initiatives. During the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the various protests across the country these past few years, the NBA has been a leader in the athletic world in articulating the need for a more just and inclusive society.
I recently interviewed James Cadogan, the new executive director of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. Cadogan is helping lead the charge in a league where 75% of the players are Black and represent 29 major cities across the country. I wanted to know more about Cadogan’s vision for the league and how he intends to build a 21st century justice initiative in a time where we as a nation are still trying to find common ground on important issues such as voting, criminal justice, policing, and so much more.
The NBA has a long history of being at the forefront of these complex issues and have had players who often incorporated and/or introduced these difficult discussions into mainstream discussion. I am thinking of basketball greats like Bill Russell, Oscar Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and so many players who stood up and advocated for what they believed was right.
Cadogan is the executive director of a coalition comprised of a board of 15 people who represent the NBA ecosystem. That is, five players, five team governors/owners, two coaches, the NBPA executive director, the NBA commissioner, and the deputy commissioner. The coalition is a reflection of the entire NBA family where these voices are in one body, speaking with one voice on policy issues.
During the 2020 election, 23 NBA facilities and arenas were made available for registration and for polling. They are also advocating for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act publicly. And lastly, Cadogan and the NBA are working to advance justice through a clear recognition that criminal justice and mass incarceration have been a problem for 30+ years.
I am so excited to see how Cadogan and the NBA continue to lead the charge on these issues. I am even more excited that a new generation of NBA players will have the support to speak out and become leaders and advocates in these policy spaces. Hopefully other sports entities will look at the work of Cadogan and the NBA and follow suit in a genuine and substantive way.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and also the What’s in It for Us podcast.