Before NBA players decided to resume playing, National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul reached out to Barack Obama, a person familiar with the call told CNN, and asked the former President if he would offer his counsel to a group of NBA players.
The source also confirmed that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James was on the call. It was Paul, the source said, who organized the discussion.
News of the call was first reported by Shams Charania, who reports for both The Athletic and Stadium.
Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Obama, told CNN in a statement, “As an avid basketball fan, President Obama speaks regularly with players and league officials. When asked, he was happy to provide advice on Wednesday night to a small group of NBA players seeking to leverage their immense platforms for good after their brave and inspiring strike in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting.”
“They discussed establishing a social justice committee to ensure that the players’ and league’s actions this week led to sustained, meaningful engagement on criminal justice and police reform.”
The NBA began postponing games this week after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their playoff game in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in the team’s home state.
Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back by police on Sunday as he tried to enter his vehicle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His shooting became the latest incident to prompt outrage nationwide over racial injustice and police brutality.
He survived the shooting, but his father said he is paralyzed from the waist down, although he is unsure if the paralysis is permanent. Blake’s three young children were in the car when he was shot, a family attorney says.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the Bucks players said they are “calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable.”
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings,” they said in a statement.
In a players’ meeting on Wednesday night, the Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers were the only NBA teams who had voted to boycott the season, according to Charania.
Charania, who cited unnamed sources in his reporting, said all other NBA teams had voted to continue playing. Following a Thursday players’ meeting on the isolated Disney campus in Orlando, NBA players decided to resume playing, according to multiple outlets.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the news. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts jointly announced Friday that playoff games will resume Saturday.