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Op/ed: COVID-Wary NBA Players Hold the All-Star Game Cards

If They Don’t Want to Play—Don’t, Sports Journalism Professor Says

By Kevin B. Blackistone

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks dunks during last year's NBA All-Star Game

Photo by AP Photo/Nam Huh

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks—one of the players who has spoken out against the pandemic-related risks of holding the 2021 NBA All-Star Game next month—dunks during last year’s game.

Some of the biggest names in professional basketball have spoken against risking travel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to play in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, scheduled for March 7 in Atlanta.

But while the league has vowed the game will go on, it’s ultimately the players who can have the last word, says Kevin Blackistone, professor of the practice in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. It’s happened recently, he writes in an op/ed in The Washington Post—NBA players refusing to take the floor to protest an issue bigger than any individual game. Just last August, the Milwaukee Bucks chose not to play to protest the police shooting that month of Jacob Blake in a suburb of their home city.

The players were widely applauded for exercising collective might on such a critical issue. It was an option available to them before and always—including now.

If so many of their lot—highlighted by stars LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant—are opposed to chancing more travel in the pandemic to play the All-Star Game next month in Atlanta, there is a simple solution: Don’t.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver declared last week that the game will go on, come COVID-19 or high water, but what’s the commissioner going to do? Take the players’ union to court? Suspend the chosen all-stars after the midseason break? Dare him. Double dare him.

Read the rest in The Washington Post.

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