Obama Pulls A Jay-Z, Tells LeBron James To Stop Protesting And Play

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Written by Ann Brown
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Former President Barack Obama pulls a Jay-Z. He tells boycotting NBA giant LeBron James to stop protesting and play ball. Photo: Former US President Barack Obama, April 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)/Photo: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. March 24, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)/Photo: Jay-Z and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speak at a news conference at Roc Nation on Aug. 14, 2019, in New York. Jay-Z later said he still supports protesting, kneeling, and NFL player Colin Kaepernick, but he’s also interested in working with the league to make changes. (Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL)

History shows that boycotts tend to work. 

“The Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 was an integral moment of the Civil Rights Movement that unambiguously achieved its goal, with the Supreme Court striking down segregation on buses over a year after the boycott started,” Refinery reported. 

So why would former President Barack Obama, who himself worked for civil rights, tell athletes to go back to playing when they decided on boycotting to cause change?

It is a reminder of how Jay-Z allowed himself to be used by the NFL to quiet down the controversy over the kneeling protests started before games by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem. The NFL went into partnership with Jay-Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation to co-produce the Super Bowl halftime show. Many criticized the move, claiming the deal was done at the expense of Kaepernick’s protests.

“I think we’re past kneeling,” Jay-Z said during an August 2019 press conference announcing the partnership. “I think it’s time for action.”

Last week NBA players and other athletes decided to boycott games over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Several NBA players including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, sought the advice of Obama. National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul initiated a call to Obama, CNN reported.

Obama reportedly encouraged the players to go back to the court and use the remainder of the 2020 postseason to bring attention to social justice action, reported The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Obama, told CNN in a statement, “As an avid basketball fan, President Obama speaks regularly with players and league officials. When asked, he was happy to provide advice on Wednesday night to a small group of NBA players seeking to leverage their immense platforms for good after their brave and inspiring strike in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting.”

“They discussed establishing a social justice committee to ensure that the players’ and league’s actions this week led to sustained, meaningful engagement on criminal justice and police reform,” Hill said.

The NBA began postponing games after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their playoff game in response to the police shooting of Blake in the team’s home state.

Blake was shot in the back at least seven times on Aug. 23 by police as he tried to enter his vehicle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

In a statement last week, the Bucks players said they are “calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable.”

“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings,” they said in a statement.

Until the call with Obama, the Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers were the only NBA teams who had voted to boycott the season, CNN reported.

Soon after the call with Obama, James tweeted about two of the initiatives he already has a stake in — the I Promise School he founded in 2018 in Akron, Ohio, and the More Than a Vote nonprofit organization aimed at stopping voter suppression — as examples of the type of change that can be achieved, ESPN reported.

By Friday, players had agreed to resume the season. As a result, the NBA and NBPA announced three initiatives triggered by the boycott:

  • The formation of a social justice coalition
  • A commitment from every city where the league has a franchise to convert team facilities into mass-voting locations
  • The creation of public service announcements, to be aired by the league’s network partners during every playoff game, aimed at promoting civic engagement in local and national elections and raising awareness about voter access and opportunity

James’ More Than a Vote organization issued a statement shortly after the league announced its three-pronged plan.

“We stand ready to support the NBPA’s and NBA’s effort to convert every NBA arena possible into a polling location for this fall’s election. More Than A Vote has been laser-focused on this for months — creating new opportunities in cities like Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, and Los Angeles among others — and welcomes the comprehensive effort to provide a safe in-person voting option for our communities during this pandemic that is disproportionately killing Black people.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 73: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin makes the case for why this is a multi-factor rebellion vs. just protests about George Floyd. He discusses the Democratic Party’s sneaky relationship with the police in cities and states under Dem control, and why Joe Biden is a cop and the Steve Jobs of mass incarceration.

In the statement, James said, “We know that voting will not end our pain. Voting cannot bring back those killed by the police officers sworn to protect us. Voting cannot erase the scars of slavery and segregation. It cannot change our history, but it can change our future.

“If it couldn’t, those in power wouldn’t be trying so hard to take the right to vote away from us. They wouldn’t be trying so hard to erect barriers to the ballot box.”

Ann Brown
Image Attribution: Former President Barack Obama pulls a Jay-Z. He tells boycotting NBA giant LeBron James to stop protesting and play ball. Photo: Former US President Barack Obama, April 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)/Photo: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. March 24, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)/Photo: Jay-Z and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speak at a news conference at Roc Nation on Aug. 14, 2019, in New York. Jay-Z later said he still supports protesting, kneeling, and NFL player Colin Kaepernick, but he's also interested in working with the league to make changes. (Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL), Former President Barack Obama pulls a Jay-Z. He tells boycotting NBA giant LeBron James to stop protesting and play ball. Photo: Former US President Barack Obama, April 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)/Photo: Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. March 24, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)/Photo: Jay-Z and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speak at a news conference at Roc Nation on Aug. 14, 2019, in New York. Jay-Z later said he still supports protesting, kneeling, and NFL player Colin Kaepernick, but he's also interested in working with the league to make changes. (Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL)