'Use our platform': NBA coaches saying change must occur

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Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra questions a referee during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Friday, March 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

MIAMI – The NBA plans to go to Disney World next month to finish a season, with a schedule calling for the 22 remaining teams to play more than 150 more games and for the league to eventually crown a champion.

Coaches are seeing potentially a bigger purpose as well.

Many players and coaches have spoken out in recent days following the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. But two coaches said Saturday that once the league arrives at Disney, they would expect the NBA’s visibility to be an asset again in the hope for actual change.

“I don’t think anybody is really ready to move on. And we shouldn’t,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If anything, many times before, so tragically, there would be a similar incident of social injustice like this and then two weeks later people forget about it. This will be an opportunity for the entire association to land in one spot ... to keep this conversation going and use our platform to make sure that this doesn’t go away.”

Spoelstra said he’s had numerous talks with other head coaches and some players in recent days about the best path the NBA could take next. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked at length about it in recent days as well, with numerous internal staff conversations on the topic going on this past week even as the league was finalizing the return-to-play proposal that the Board of Governors approved Thursday and players ratified Friday.

Orlando coach Steve Clifford also seems convinced that the league’s players and coaches will take some sort of action when the season resumes.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Clifford said. “I think everybody’s priority right now and hope is that we can all be part of the change that’s so necessary in our country. We’ll have a collective platform where everyone can collectively send a message condemning racism, racial injustice, calling for police accountability. There will be a platform and I think we’re all thinking that way.”

Many of the league’s biggest names have used social media to condemn police brutality and racial injustice, and some NBA players have also appeared at demonstrations and marches around the nation in recent days.