Professional athletes, far from being strangers of the spotlight, often throw their opinions into the fray. However, the multi-billion dollar organizations that employ them tend to distance themselves from the conversation. So it may come as a surprise that the National Basketball Association would willingly step into increasingly heated gun-violence debate.
In partnership with the NRA-opposed advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, the NBA is beginning a campaign geared towards highlighting the horrors of gun violence in the United States. The ads, which will debut during the Christmas games, feature prominent NBA players like reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah with members of families that have been victims of gun violence. Curry opens the first ad saying, “My daughter Riley’s that age,” in response to the shooting death of a 3-year-old. Paul adds, “My parents used to say, ‘A bullet doesn’t have a name on it.’ ”
According to the New York Times, the partnership came about after Spike Lee pitched the idea over breakfast with the president of ESPN, John Skipper, who then floated it to NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Jason Rzepka, who is the spokesperson for Everytown, told SB Nation in an interview that the league jumped on the chance to take part in the campaign.
“I can’t speak to the conversation that Spike had with the leadership of the NBA and Adam Silver, but I know that from the moment we walked in the door for the first meeting, they were really charged up and really excited to take this on.”
By taking part in this campaign the players are hoping to aid the very communities than many of them originate from. “The guys really wanted to kind of put their voices behind this, and so we like the way it’s come together, and I think the guys speak very passionately about the issue of trying to end gun violence, trying to make their communities stronger and safer for families,” said Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs.Anthony, in particular, comes from Baltimore, which has seen a surge of gun-related homicides in 2015.
The NBA has been quick to emphasis the community outreach aspect of this campaign in order to distance itself from the political side of the debate. That said, seeing an organization as large and robust as itself getting involved speaks volumes. No one is pro gun-violence, regardless of their politics. If there is to be a change in the way the country talks about guns, entities like the NBA need to get involved Rzepka feels the same way.
“By looking at this for what it is, which is a senseless loss of life and the idea that there are common-sense solutions that we can apply to reduce that senseless loss of life, I think it quickly looks much less controversial and becomes much less divisive. So I think it’s really a question to perspective.”