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‘We’re more than just basketball players,’ Ray Allen says of sports boycotts

The shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has sparked public outrage in that city and beyond. Athletes from the NBA, the WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer refused to play Wednesday night, and nearly a dozen games were canceled. The boycotts are arguably the strongest action players have taken on a social issue. John Yang talks to retired NBA player Ray Allen.

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  • John Yang:

    WNBA playoff games and some Major League Baseball for tonight have also been called off, and late word that the NHL is also pausing its Stanley Cup playoffs for two nights.

    These player boycotts are arguably the strongest stand yet that any professional athletes have been — have taken on any social issue.

    Ray Allen played 18 seasons in the NBA, including for the Milwaukee Bucks. He's a 10-time All-Star and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

    Ray Allen, thanks so much for joining us on the "NewsHour."

    I know you talk to current players. You talk to current players. What was it about this moment that made it a breaking point, that made it — brought them to the point where they said, we're just not going to play?

  • Ray Allen:

    Well, I don't think this moment was any different than anything that has happened, you know, over the last couple of years.

    We have finally had enough. And we have seen events unfold in front of our eyes just as recently as a couple of months ago, and enough is enough.

    Like, what more do we have to say? What more do we have to do? And when you're sitting in an arena and you're thinking about playing basketball, you have to ask yourself, what's really important here? The basketball actually is the distraction.

    At the same token, it's time for us to use this podium, this mantle to use our voices. We're more than just basketball players.

  • John Yang:

    You talk about using your voice.

    This started with one player, by all accounts, George Hill, going into the Bucks locker room and saying, why are we playing this game? And it brought the — sort of the multibillion-dollar NBA to a grinding halt.

    What's the next step? What — this has shown the leverage the players have over the owners and over this sport. What is the next step? What would you like to see them — sort of the players use this leverage now with the owners?

  • Ray Allen:

    Well, I will remind you, about a couple of years ago, with Donald Sterling, with the comments that he made about the athletes in the NBA, and the voice — the voices that we had and the things that we said.

    We voiced our displeasure. We tried to protest as much as we could. And even then, we didn't understand what our voice was. We turned our shirts backwards. We voiced our displeasure as much as we could.

    Now we have taken it a step further, because we understand the power that we possess. I do believe that it's going to take the ownership of these teams to step up and join in — join the voices in this fight. It can't just be the players.

    Everybody should be outraged.

  • John Yang:

    And these — I mean, these owners have a lot of power in the team cities.

    I mean, they get cities where the streets are filled with potholes, where the schools are falling apart to give them tax breaks and build them arenas, so they don't leave.

    So, what would you like the owners — to see the owners do to sort of help this cause, to move this cause forward?

  • Ray Allen:

    Well, first and foremost, when we say black lives matter, it's enough — it's not enough to be able to say black lives matter and to post a black square on your social media.

    We need to start seeing funds, you know, pushed into the inner cities, you know, black and brown, the underprivileged, the young people into school systems. We need to see money put into programs where we see our young people being taken care of, because, if you go across every sports league, you see so many players that have foundations where they try to do as much as they can to give back, because there are communities where they are forgotten.

    And it's time to start thinking about these people that have been left behind. And we are the ones pushing our voices now, because the inner cities need a hand up. And it's up to us to use our voices to make sure that we let our owners know that we need to do more inside of these communities, that we need to make sure that we give them greater opportunities than they had before.

  • John Yang:

    Your former Miami Heat teammate and close friend on and off the court LeBron James has certainly been a leading voice in this. He's mobilizing a big get-out-the-vote effort for this fall, arranged to have Dodger Stadium used as a voting place.

    Have you talked to him about this and about his growing political activism this year?

  • Ray Allen:

    Yes, we exchanged messages.

    And I just wanted him to know every time that I talk to him that, just because I'm not on the court with you, I have your back. I support you. We stand with you.

    You know, this is a issue not only for the NBA. It's an issue for all sports. It's an issue for all people. So it's going to take every league to join up, join together and say, we need to speak out together as a group, and not just look at one person. Everybody has to create a swarm of voices and mobilize.

    And, for LeBron, he has the power. It reminds me of Ali back in '66, when he was arrested for not going to war. He was the most hated man in America at the time. And now he's the greatest of all time, and people love him.

    And a lot of people forget what he went through. He lost four years of boxing, you know, a la Colin Kaepernick.

    And so now it's the time to say, I get it. We're professional athletes, and we want to play basketball, but, right now, we have more pressing issues, and we need to use our voice. And we have to press these issues and make sure there's change that happens.

  • John Yang:

    Well, it feels like a very big moment in sports and for society and for America.

    Ray Allen, NBA All-Star, NBA Hall of Famer, thank you very much.

  • Ray Allen:

    Yes, thank you.

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