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Volume 26 No. 227
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Charles Grantham On Social Activism In The NBA: Q&A Part II

Charles Grantham, the first Exec VP and Exec Dir of the NBPA, weighed in on the how sports and the NBA especially can play a role in the current climate of social protest. The second installment of our Q&A with Grantham has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What would you say to players who want to get a social message out in these unusual circumstances?
Grantham: I've always told players that this is your playground, but it's also your platform. Avery (Bradley), if you can play, you've got to play, unless everyone is not going to play. The fact that two or three may leave? You know, out of sight, out of mind. But if you want to make a statement, now is the time to make that statement, now that you're in the bubble.

Q: You've been part of the fight for equality and inclusivity for a long time. What is different about today's social climate, and what is the same?
Grantham: For most people with regards to race in sports, very little attention is paid to the business functions: How many minority financial directors do you have, how many lawyers working as general counsel or marketing execs? I wrote in the early '90s that the NBA needed an office to deal with discrimination, diversity and inclusion. In some ways very little has happened in 30 years on the business front.

Q: So what does this mean going forward?
Grantham: I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, so social justice and racial parity, this is a long-term process. We know that athletes are agents of change. But the challenge now is, how do we translate this motivation for protest and actually effectuate change? And another challenge -- for both management and labor, Adam (Silver) and Michele (Roberts) -- is to corral that political lobby that owners have. It's great to see Black Lives Matter on the court, or the athletes wearing different names on their backs. It's a symbol, and it's keeping it in the mindset. But we want to make this work. I had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela, and he knew that sports can change the world. The young players who I still talk to, Tobias Harris and some others, I emphasize that you're in it for the long run. You can't do it by yourself. You're going to have to pass the ball.

See more on the NBA’s restart in this week’s issue of SBJ, and check out Part I of our interview with Grantham, which focused on labor relations.