Athletes “have to be active participants to show that it affects us too”

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Last summer, when more than 15 million people took part in protests across the country following the murder of George Floyd in custody in Minneapolis, many celebrities and athletes spoke out against the injustice on social media. . But Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard made headlines when he marched alongside protesters in Portland in June, tying arms with people in the crowd. Soon after, he also released a rap song on the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lillard now says it was about actively participating in the movement, beyond just posting on social media.

“We have to participate – and obviously people are going to use their platforms – but we have to be out there, active, actively showing that it affects us too, and looking for ways to try to be part of the change,” said Lillard. Yahoo Finance in an in-depth interview about his new investment in PlayersTV, his other business ventures, and his efforts to spur social justice reform.

Lillard was one of the biggest stars of the 2020 NBA Bubble Playoffs in Orlando, but the NBA and WNBA bubbles also made waves for player political outspokenness during this time. The The WNBA dedicated its season to Breonna Taylor; NBA players wore phrases on the back of their jerseys like “Say their names” and “Justice now”, and the NBA and NBPA have formed a coalition for social justice organize action around social justice and equality.

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers warms up before action against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Playoff Round 2 at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 20, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, In Florida. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool / Getty Images)

“In the bubble, I thought everyone had sat down and realized, man, a lot of us black men, we make up the majority of the NBA, and most of us come from from an environment where we got in trouble with the cops, ”said Lillard. “I was arrested, I was at gunpoint. I had all of these experiences when I was a kid. So I think what you saw with the bubble is that players thought, we’ve been through this, that’s where we’re from, and it’s not fair for us to just go play basketball and leave it to everyone. We need to be active participants. We need to take a stand and pay as much attention as possible to this. And I thought we did.

Now, the 2021 NBA season is already underway, and what happened in the 2020 bubble was “just a small piece of what needs to be done,” says Lillard. “How are we helping now? “

Lillard has plenty to do off the pitch, including a new investment in PlayersTV, the content network owned by athletes. In 2021, the platform will receive a documentary on his career, “Dame”, and an original series in which he makes music with other musicians, “Sessions”. Lillard aims to further promote social justice through some of the new content he will be creating.

He also had a visceral reaction, with much of the country, to the violence at the Capitol in Washington on January 6.

“It’s disturbing, especially as a black man, to have to fight so hard just for equality,” said Lillard. “You’re not asking for more, it’s just equality. Give me a fair chance, treat me fairly, value my life the same. And then it gets worse when you wake up and see them rushing to the Capitol, and people climbing up walls and taking pictures in offices. And just the disrespect, you know what I mean? The fact that it’s like, ‘I could do that and it’ll be perfectly fine, I’m going to get out of here alive, no worries, no worries to the world.’ And you can’t help but think, if it was black people doing that, I can’t imagine what would have happened. I’m not a person who draws the race card on everything, but I couldn’t help but think that if it was black people doing this, there would have been a lot of deaths. It’s disturbing, you know what I mean, and it’s like, when is that gonna start to change?

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, second from right, kneels with his teammates and coaches during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Friday, July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. ( Mike Ehrmann / Pool Photo via AP)

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, second from right, kneels with his teammates and coaches during the national anthem before an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies on July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann / Pool Photo via PA)

The event made Lillard even more determined to speak out, and he notes that NBA players feel more encouraged to speak out on such issues than ever before.

“In the past, I feel like the repercussions would have been a lot harder to speak out and put yourself under a microscope and put yourself in that position,” he says. “There might be a black eye on the league you represent or the team you represent, they might say don’t do this or don’t do that and try to control it. But I think now, because of the social change that we’ve had over the years, and in the NBA, how much they’ve supported the players, I think that’s only going to make the players more confident and to the point. comfortable coming forward … I think teams and leagues need to be careful with that, and they need to respect the opinions of the athletes more now, as opposed to how it was then.

Daniel Roberts is a senior editor at Yahoo Finance and specializes in sports affairs. Follow him on Twitter at @read Danwrite.

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