One year after George Floyd's murder, NBA social justice coalition urges passage of policing reform bill

May 25, 2021, 12:29 AM

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's murder, the NBA's social justice coalition released a statement Monday night calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a way to honor the memory of Floyd and "others who have been victims of police brutality."

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds and "qualified immunity" for law enforcement while creating national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in March with bipartisan support and is now pending in the Senate.

In their statement, the board members of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition called on "elected representatives of both parties to work together to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the U.S. Senate now and present it to President [Joe] Biden for him to sign into law this year."

Other groups of professional athletes joined the NBA players' coalition Tuesday with calls pushing for passage of the legislation.

The WNBPA said in a statement that it remains "hopeful that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is the important first step for comprehensive policing reform at the federal level."

"America has a serious problem when it comes to discriminatory policing," the WNBPA said. "It is a deadly problem for Black and brown people. Excessive force used against communities of color is past crisis-level. Excessive force used against communities of color demands action by Congress."

The Black Players for Change, an independent organization representing Black players in Major League Soccer,  also announced Tuesday that it is joining the NBA coalition's efforts.

"[The NBA players] communicating that to us, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity for us to collaborate because I just think it's the most meaningful thing that we can do in memory of George Floyd," Toronto FC defender and BPC executive director Justin Morrow said. "Pass some real reform that's going to change [things]."

On April 20, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter by a jury for his role in the murder of Floyd in May 2020 outside of a local convenience store. The death of Floyd, a Black man, and the video that showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes, became a catalyst for the sports world's racial and social justice movement last summer and led to the formation of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.

The organization aims to lead "the NBA family's collaborative efforts to address racial and social inequality by advocating for policy change at the national, state, and local level."

Among the members of the coalition are players Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell and  Karl-Anthony Towns, as well as multiple team owners, including Micky Arison, Steve Ballmer, Clay Bennett, Marc Lasry and Vivek Ranadive. Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers and former NBA coach Lloyd Pierce are also part of the coalition, as are NBA commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.

"Almost exactly one year ago, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis. Like millions around the world, NBA players, coaches, governors, officials, and staff throughout our organizations were outraged to see the horrifying and unlawful actions of the officer who pinned Mr. Floyd's neck to the ground under his knee for 9 minutes," the coalition's statement read. "Mr. Floyd's death added new fuel to the protests, marches, and urgent calls for racial justice and reform locally and nationally.

"Today, as this painful anniversary approaches, we have an opportunity to honor the memory of Mr. Floyd and others who have been victims of police brutality in this country by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Systemic problems demand systemic solutions. And, because police actions are governed by a diverse array of state laws and local policies, the Floyd Act takes unprecedented strides towards consistency -- reforming at a federal level the practices that failed its namesake."

The statement concluded: "As members of the NBA family, we will continue to use our influence to support common-sense policy reform in our communities across the nation so that equal justice is afforded to all."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.