Stephen Curry and several other NBA stars have joined with the organization Everytown for Gun Safety in an effort to speak out against gun violence.
Zach Schonbrun and Michael Barbaro of the New York Times report that a 30-second anti-gun violence ad sponsored by the NBA will five times during the marquee games on Christmas Day. Curry is the featured player in the ad, opening with a brief statement invoking superstar daughter Riley Curry and ending with a voiceover saying, "We can end gun violence."
As noted by the Times, "gun control" is never mentioned in the ad despite the political position of Everytown founder and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The first ads, timed to reach millions of basketball fans during a series of marquee games on Christmas Day, focus on shooting victims and contain no policy recommendations. The words "gun control" are never mentioned...Players who appear in the first 30-second ad, which will run five times on Friday, speak in personal terms about the effects of gun violence on their lives. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors describes hearing of a 3-year-old's shooting: "My daughter Riley's that age," he says. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers recalls the advice he heeded as a child: "My parents used to say, ‘A bullet doesn't have a name on it.'"
Regardless of your opinion on the issue itself, this is a significant development for at least two reasons.
First, no U.S. male professional sports league has ever so formally endorsed an issue as politically charged as gun violence. Individual players have taken up causes, particularly police violence against black citizens, but the leagues themselves have shied away from contentious political issues. But it's not entirely unexpected from a Adam Silver-led NBA: Silver essentially began his tenure by taking a strong stand against racist former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and the WNBA has openly opposed anti-LGBT bias and responded to discriminatory legislation. Yet what remains unique about this latest stance is the magnitude and partnership with an organization that, "...reflects a political awakening inside the league that is led not by its executives, but by its players."
Second, as ESPN's Kevin Pelton tweeted, this is a significant shift in how the NBA has positioned itself culturally over the last decade.
Dramatic contrast between the thinking that led to the dress code and the NBA's new @Everytown partnership: https://t.co/0ux2EUmSIU— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) December 23, 2015
In a recent preview of the Warriors' game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day, Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Daily News described how the league actively tried to resuscitate its image after the brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands in 2004.
The Pacers and Pistons had rumbled in the Auburn Hills riot five weeks before, when Ron Artest went into the stands after a fan who threw a soft drink at him and punched the wrong one, and Jermaine O’Neal laid out another who ran up on him on the court.
One can only imagine the sponsors’ horror. Commissioner David Stern actually hired GOP consultant Matthew Dowd to map a way back into the hearts of Middle America.
It was that thinking that led to increased emphasis on season ticket holder events, the NBA Cares campaign and eventually the formal adoption of a league-wide dress code — the goal quite transparently being to broaden its appeal by distancing itself from hip-hop culture or anything that could be considered even remotely controversial.
To launch this campaign on national television on Christmas Day, when you'd expect that same demographic that former commissioner David Stern tried so hard to attract to tune in at higher rates, is about as bold a move as we've seen in the modern sports landscape that is so concerned with protecting the brand to increase profit margins. And it's yet another statement from current commissioner Adam Silver that he's not afraid to put his own imprint on the league.