Jared Kushner says the NBA boycott is more about players exercising their financial privilege than enacting real social change. He is so wrong.
In an interview Thursday on CNBC, Kushner says NBA players are fortunate to be able to boycott games and not suffer financial repercussions. “The NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially,” he said.
In addition to being President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Forbes in 2016 last estimated Kushner’s family has a fortune worth more than $1.5 billion.
Later in the interview, Kushner said he intends to reach out to LeBron James, and see if the all-time great is interested in connecting with Trump to work on constructive solutions to racial injustice and police violence against Black people. “I think what we need to do is turn that from slogans and signals to actual actions that’s going to solve the problem,” he said.
In addition to being patronizing, Kushner’s position that NBA players, and James in particular, are solely relying on performative gestures to speak out against racism is devoid of reality. He must not be aware James is leading an organization to combat voter suppression, which has been ratcheted up across the U.S. ever since the Supreme Court invalidated portions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. James’ group, More Than a Vote, announced an effort this week to recruit young people to work at polling locations.
James has also opened a public school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, with the mission of educating the worst performing kids in the urban district. He’s sent students from the I Promise program to college, with his charitable foundation covering all tuition costs.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer, many NBA stars took to the streets, and joined the protests themselves. They’ve been speaking out about social justice issues since arriving last month at the league’s bubble in Orlando, Florida, but the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times in the back by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, propelled them to do more. In a statement, the Milwaukee Bucks, who were the first team to boycott the playoffs, said they are tired of their words falling on deaf ears. Shortly before the Bucks’ announcement, Kenosha Police Chief Dan Miskinis held a press conference, in which he seemed to whitewash the fatal shootings in the city Tuesday night. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Illinois, has been charged with killing two protesters. He appeared to walk by officers without consequence after the shootings, according to video from the scene.
“Last night, a 17-year-old individual from Antioch, Illinois was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place,” he said. “The result of it was, two people are dead.”
After months of nationwide demonstrations against police violence, it appears as if Miskinis is unmoved to change the unjust status quo. Understandably, NBA players are fed up.
The NBA player boycotts represent a historic turning point in athletic activism. Four years to the day after Colin Kaepernick took his first knee, athletes are deciding it is no longer suitable to center their activism around the games. At this moment, the message takes precedent over points and turnovers. An array of MLB teams also boycotted their games Wednesday, along with every WNBA club and five MLS teams. Tennis star Naomi Osaka announced she’s dropping out of her semifinal as well to protest police brutality.
While the NBA has supported its players and coaches, the league’s bottom line has remained unaffected. Yes, the “Black Lives Matter” slogan is painted on each court at the Walt Disney World Resort, and players are wearing social justice slogans on their jerseys. But the games have continued. The league is staging the playoffs and recouping its lost TV revenue.
In a meeting Thursday morning, NBA players voted to resume the playoffs, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Thursday’s previously scheduled games will be postponed, however.
Contrary to Kushner’s stance, canceling the playoffs would’ve carried financial consequences for players. Most significantly, a prolonged player strike could’ve result in the owners terminating the collective bargaining agreement, setting the stage for a lockout next season.
Even though the NBA playoffs will continue, it’s apparent the players are rightfully tired of receiving lip service from elected officials. They appear determined to keep pushing and take action. Meanwhile, Kushner just talks on TV.
Alex Reimer is back for his second stint with SportsMoney. Previously, Reimer was a host and columnist for WEEI in Boston, and has written for several publications,
Alex Reimer is back for his second stint with SportsMoney. Previously, Reimer was a host and columnist for WEEI in Boston, and has written for several publications, including Boston Magazine and SB Nation. Email him, [email protected]
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