Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is one of the most important dates on the NBA calendar. The league chooses to showcase its teams and stars on a historic day in US history to celebrate a champion of civil rights. It’s an undeniably important act for a league where the majority of players are African-American.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers will be one of the frontliners for the annual showcase, playing in Memphis against the Grizzlies. As has been a tradition for the Lakers when they visit the city where Dr. King was assassinated, the team visited iconic places like Lorraine Motel and the National Civil Rights Museum with members of the Grizzlies, NBA, and NBPA.
More importantly, it was announced by former NBA player Elliot Perry that the Lakers, Grizzlies, NBA, and NBPA have partnered to make a $100,000 donation to the National Civil Rights Museum in honor of Dr. King.
Lakers center Brook Lopez was also part of a panel titled “Where Do We Go From Here” with colleagues such as Mike Conley and Swin Cash discussing the “intersection of race and sports.”
The act by the four organizations comes at a time when athletes are more and more vocal about the social and political issues of the day. Chief among them in recent years has been the topic of racial injustice. Lakers players like Lopez, Luol Deng, and Kobe Bryant as well as members of the Grizzlies, such as former head coach David Fizdale, have all been vocal about their opinions on a critical matter in the United States.
Putting money into preserving the history of the Civil Rights Movement and reinforcing new fights for social equality is an incredibly commendable action by all four organizations involved.