NBA Players Take on Gun Violence; Next Up, Climate Change?


Tomorrow’s traditional Christmas NBA quintuple-header is headlined by a juicy Finals rematch: The now-healthy Cleveland Cavaliers, with a hungry LeBron James vs. defending champion and Golden State Warriors (27-1!), led by the magical Steph Curry, at Oakland’s Oracle Arena. Curry is lending his incandescent star power to another, even more important arena tomorrow–the fight to reduce gun violence–through his appearance in a series of Public Service Ads. GreenSportsBlog applauds this high profile and important campaign. Going forward, GSB commits to doing what it can to get the Currys and LeBron James’ of the world to speak out on the climate change fight–to make 2016 the Year of the Eco-Athlete.

It’s rare that the NBA rates a front page New York Times story but, today, above the fold, the “Paper of Record” led with “N.B.A. to Run Ads Deploring Gun Violence.”
The story, by Zach Schonbrun and Michael Barbaro, highlights the controversial and groundbreaking nature of these ads: “In a move with little precedent in professional sports, the NBA is putting the weight of its multibillion-dollar brand and the prestige of its star athletes behind a series of television commercials calling for an end to gun violence,” which is far more controversial than the typical public-service efforts the league supports (i.e. Habitat for Humanity, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs)
While the first 30 second ad (watch here), which will run 5 times during tomorrow’s ESPN and ABC Sports broadcasts, doesn’t mention gun control, it is clear where the stars featured in it–Curry, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah–stand. That the campaign is paid for by Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York City mayor and pro gun control advocate Michael R. Bloomberg, to, among other things, expand background checks for gun buyers and ban gun sales to people convicted of domestic abuse, sharpens the league’s and the participating stars’ point of view.
Steph Curry

An image of the Warriors’ Stephen Curry from the first, NBA/Everytown for Gun Safety ad that will run on ESPN and ABC Sports NBA game broadcasts, starting on Christmas Day.

Kudos to the league and especially its brightest stars, for speaking out. This campaign lends credence to the notion that this generation of athletes just may be more willing to speak out on political issues than their more risk-averse forebears (Do you remember Michael Jordan saying, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” as a way of explaining why he wouldn’t endorse North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Harvey Gantt in his 1990 race vs. then-incumbent race-baiter Jesse Helms?)
If that’s the case, 2016 needs to be the year that the highest profile athletes add the climate change fight to gun violence and the other hot button issues they take on. 2016 must be the Year of the Eco-Athlete.
Why 2016? Well…

  1. This month’s Paris climate change deal finally brought together a global coalition of forward thinking businesses, government, scientists and non-profits to clearly say that humanity must act to reduce global carbon emissions now.
  2. The effects of climate change are being/will be felt by the most vulnerable–aka the people athletes want to help.
  3. Solving climate change, from renewable energy to energy efficiency, means and will mean jobs for folks who need them.

Making 2016 the Year of the Eco-Athlete won’t be easy.
As Andrew Ference, Assistant Captain of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and a leading Eco-Athlete, said in a GreenSportsBlog interview in August, “Climate change? It’s a…complicated problem–a set of problems, really–and thus has many more complex potential solutions.” Despite climate change’s current effects, it’s not seen as a clear and present danger in the same way ISIL and gun violence are. Then there’s domestic politics–the issue has barely been discussed in the Presidential debates and the reality of climate change and/or its seriousness is still being denied or doubted by all of the remaining GOP Presidential candidates.
So what? It’s hard. But not at all impossible. GreenSportsBlog will find and engage Eco-Athletes in 2016.
And the NBA/Everytown for Gun Safety campaign gives us a roadmap as to how to go about it: Rather than getting in a political, gun control fight against the National Rifle Association (NRA), the NBA effort emphasizes, in can-do tones, the imperative to stop the violence.
Translating this approach to prospective Eco-Athletes means we need to steer clear of the politics of climate change. Instead, the focus must be on positive, simple solutions: Clean solar and wind power. Energy efficiency. Recycle. Zero Waste. Increased access to nature. For athletes, discussing the minutiae of climate change may be hard but talking up the benefits of solar power will be easy. And if advocating for clean energy gets climate change deniers/skeptics in a tizzy, well, that just means the Eco-Athletes will have won.
You may recall that GreenSportsBlog got a head start on this whole Eco-Athlete thing when we highlighted the work of four AMAZING Eco-All Stars, including the aforementioned Ference, in a recent post.
This is just the beginning: Watch this space for more Eco-Athletes in 2016.

Please comment below!
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  1. I’m Australian and don’t know the day-to-day situation re gun control [or lack thereof] in the US, but I have many, many American friends onine and they ALL want the gun madness to end. Perhaps with star athletes and such a high profile athletics association speaking out, the NRA may finally get some competition for air space. And yes, if this intractable problem begins to change then perhaps that other intractable problem may change as well. 🙂
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks for the comment and Merry Christmas! Here’s to solving intractable problems in 2016, with sports playing a key role!

  3. Skiers and skaters first.
    Great post.

  4. Thanks for the compliment, Richard, and for reading GreenSportsBlog. The winter sports world has taken a leading role in the Green-Sports world (Protect Our Winters, NHL); athletes like Gretchen Bleiler (snowboarding) and Andrew Ference (NHL) are great spokespeople the cause. It’s my contention that we need big sports stars, no matter the sport, to embrace the climate change fight. NBA stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry are, arguably, the most popular individual team sports athletes in North America. So I’d love to get them–as well as the biggest NHLers, MLBers, NFLers, golfers, tennis players, etc. Keep reading and commenting GSB in ’16 and Happy New Year!

  5. No-one would use search if all it returned was ads.

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