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In an anonymous survey conducted by The Athletic, one NBA agent was critical of the league's decision to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it a "horrible look for the league." This agent claimed the players were "being manipulated" by the movement, which this person believed "really hurt the business."
"They initially did a great job by putting the bubble together and they completely shit the bed with all this nonsense. They really hurt the business … All of this Black Lives Matter stuff … I think that the players are being manipulated into something that they don't really understand and I think it's a horrible look for the league and they need to be very clear about the organization, what they stand for," the agent said in response to a question about how the NBA handled the bubble and COVID-19.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski revealed on his podcast in late August that not every owner was enthusiastic about the idea of putting "Black Lives Matter" on the court during the season restart in Orlando. "Some are extremely supportive. Some less so. None of them publicly [critical]," Wojnarowski said, per Bleacher Report.
"But I do know [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver told them, 'Hey guys, this is what we're going to do to support our players," he added. "Our league is overwhelmingly comprised of African American players. This is important. This is a partnership."
The agent later implied that the lower than usual NBA Finals ratings had to do with their alignment with the Black Lives Matter movement, saying, "If that's what the NBA wants to align with, they're really hurting themselves … They're not helping the players, they're hurting the sport. When the ratings are down 30%, who are you helping?"
A reported 5.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the Los Angeles Lakers capture their 17th NBA title with a victory in Game 6 against the Miami Heat. In comparison, Game 6 of last year’s Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors pulled in 18.34 million viewers. Still, the decrease in viewership this year may not involve the league’s publicly stated social agenda.
That same night, Game 6 was competing against the weekly event known as Sunday Night Football, which drew 11.4 million viewers.
Other items to take into consideration include the level of competition. While LeBron James and maybe even Anthony Davis are household names, and represent the city of Los Angeles, is the casual basketball fan honestly intrigued to watch anyone on the Heat? Last year, the Finals viewership included the loyal fans from seemingly the entire city of Toronto, along with the added appeal of witnessing the Raptors topple Steph Curry and the Warriors’ dynasty.
The following Sunday, Fox said Game 7 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves had 10.2 million viewers, the highest ratings for a LCS game since 2017. This report hints a larger issue regarding the sports landscape where nearly all of the four major sports were overlapping. Typically, the Finals aren’t forced to compete for eyeballs against the MLB or NFL, but like everything else, the pandemic threw sports into disarray.
Another agent, however, took a different, more constructive approach to criticizing the NBA's work with the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice initiatives going forward. You can read that below.
"They were, how do I put this? I don’t want to throw my own league under the bus. For instance, the jersey with the slogan on the back, that was great, but why aren’t we selling those jerseys and donating the money to victims of police violence? Yeah, it’s great they have polling places, but a lot of places around arenas have impoverished people … Maybe it’s not stuff they haven’t done, but moving forward they have a responsibility to be those leaders in investing in the communities that these players grew up in and they came from and I hope this moment will help. The NBA has been the most progressive league, done the most, but they need to do more. I don’t know how I could have done better in Adam’s position. I can criticize him here but it’s a tough spot to be in."