Play for Change

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Raptors Advisor Embry Believes NBA Can Make Statement by Playing

Wayne Embry still remembers playing in the 1968 Eastern Division finals as sorrow swept through the nation following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Game 1 of the series was nearly delayed, but it was Boston Celtics general manager Red Auerbach who believed the game had to go on in the light of racial unrest in the country. The Celtics would go onto win Game 1 with a heroic performance from John Havlicek.

“Our immediate reaction was we will not play the game,” reminisced Embry, who is now the Toronto Raptors’ senior basketball adviser. “Players were just shaken, all the emotions you can probably think of. So, of course we had to go out compete, but in the back of our minds, the Sixers and Celtics players shared grief and were visibly upset and disturbed about what had happened. But we still went out and played.”

So many years later, this racial inequality still persists all across the United States.

“I am saddened, angered, and quite frankly terrified by the way things are, and this is how many years later?” The 83-year old  said. “We thought things were well, and things got well in the late 70s and early 80s, we started to see progress, corporate America opened up, I think we saw great progress. And I think it continued on into the 90s.

“But in recent years, it’s just amazing, somehow we’ve regressed. It’s sad to see.”

Yet as many players speak out on the matter and a growing number are against the return of the NBA, Embry believes playing is more important now more than ever.

“I would play because I think through sports we can be a model for the greater society in that we come from diverse backgrounds, we come together to work toward a common goal and that’s to win the championship in a team sport,” Embry said. “I think we can be a model for the greater society, so that’s why I think I would play.”

Adam Silver appeared on ESPN on Monday night to discuss the league’s return to play and it appears as despite all the noise, the plan is still to play at the end of July. Silver even noted that the league will do everything in their power to use their platform to promote the message of social reform and black lives matter.

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