This is much more than a basketball trip for the 76ers.
They are determined to use their platform to speak out against racism while attempting to win an NBA title during the league restart at Walt Disney World in Florida.
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This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, general manger Elton Brand, and team personnel have marched in peaceful Philadelphia protests to declare Black Lives Matter after George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed Black man, was killed May 25 by since-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white.
“I felt compelled like. I mean, if one kid sees me out there doing that and it encourages them to support the movement, then my job is done,” Thybulle said of participating in the marches. “But for me, it’s just in my own personal life I want to actually be a part in putting myself in those situations as opposed to this talking about them and retweeting them.”
Meanwhile, coach Brett Brown is a member of the National Basketball Coaches Association’s 11-member committee on racial injustice and reform that was established after Floyd’s death. And nearly all of Brown’s last two team Zoom meetings with players were spent discussing racial injustice.
Josh Richardson commended Brand and teammates Thybulle and Harris for marching.
“There’s been protests everywhere and you know it’s important the way things are going right now,” he said. “The awareness that’s starting to be raised, I think the cameras are catching a lot of stuff now that’s raising a lot of awareness.
“But that’s all you can ask for real, and for them to step up and do that and use their voices for that, I know that wasn’t easy at first because there’s a lot of differences in opinions.”
Richardson added that he’s excited for the Sixers to use their platform in Disney as another way to raise awareness and say what needs to be said.
The Sixers traveled to Florida on Thursday. After 36 hours of quarantining, they were scheduled to begin training camp practice Saturday.
They will have three scrimmages: against the Memphis Grizzlies (July 24), the Oklahoma City Thunder (July 26), and the Dallas Mavericks (July 28). Then they’ll face the Indiana Pacers on Aug. 1 in the first of eight seeding games. The playoffs will begin Aug. 17.
The Sixers have repeatedly said they were built for the postseason despite having a disappointing 39-26 record and being sixth in the Eastern Conference before the shutdown. They have to prove that once the postseason begins.
But the pursuit of a championship won’t mask the team’s social-justice platform.
“It’s a no-brainer ... because this stuff has been happening for centuries since America started, since before it started,” Richardson said. " And I think we need to keep the focus on what’s important and that’s the social climate right now and inequities that’s been happening for African Americans for so long that needs to be spoken about.”
The Sixers’ mindset is to work hard on the court while thinking of ways to speak up and help.
The National Basketball Players Association and NBA will have “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court inside both sidelines in all three of the arenas that will be used at Disney.
The league will also allow players to replace the names on the back of their jerseys with phrases promoting the fight against racial inequality and social injustice.
The plan is to keep the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement. Thybulle is expected to have “Vote” on the back of his jersey.
The Sixers also have some other things planned.
Just don’t ask Richardson.
“I’m not going to say that right now,” he said. “I don’t know how guys feel about me being vocal or people saying what we’ve been thinking. I think there’s definitely going to be something that we’re going to be doing.
“So keep your eyes peeled.”