The Miami Heat’s unlikely March to the 2023 NBA finals means that there will be at least two games played in the series that decide the next league champion.
The underdog 8 seed emerged as the top dogs in the NBA’s eastern conference after beating the Boston Celtics Monday night in a pivotal game 7. That’s the good news for Florida.
The bad news for the Sunshine State — aside from the ongoing “woke” culture wars waged by the Republican-led legislature — is that when the 2023 NBA finals aren’t in Denver against the Nuggets, they’ll be in a state where the NAACP has particularly advised Black people against traveling.
The collision of those two truths is placing a brightening spotlight on the NAACP travel advisory. But it is also drawing attention to the Heat’s and Nuggets’ mostly Black players competing for the most coveted basketball title in the world that could possibly be won in a state that continues working to silence if not flat-out erase the history of people who look like them.
NAACP travel advisory
Nearly two weeks ago, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida in direct response to policies pushed by state lawmakers and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson said in the advisory. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”
The week prior, DeSantis signed a bill prohibiting colleges and universities in his state from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion programs and initiatives. That followed DeSantis rejecting students’ access to AP African American studies courses in March.
2023 NBA Finals
Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals is scheduled to tip off on Thursday night in Denver, with Game 2 slated for Sunday night in the Mile High City.
Games 3 and 4, however, will be played in the Kaseya Center in Miami, where 20 out of the 30 players listed on the playoffs rosters for the Heat and Nuggets are Black and will be expected to compete under conditions that the NAACP has described as “hostile to Black Americans.”
While it didn’t appear that any of the players on either team have publicly spoken out against Florida’s increasingly anti-Black policies and laws, it would be naive to assume they don’t have thoughts about it since the NBA is renowned as a professional sports league with social justice-minded players.
2023 NBA playoffs
The NAACP travel advisory for Florida came as the 2023 NBA playoffs were already well underway during the conference finals, the third round of series. But the NBA, the Heat and the Nuggets have yet to issue a statement about the travel advisory even though the league’s players are disproportionately Black.
Even still, none of the players have said anything to condemn Florida’s politics or the NAACP travel advisory in Florida.
2020 ‘Bubble’ season
During the 2020 playoffs that took place during the pandemic at Walt Disney World near Orlando, both the Heat and the Nuggets wore social justice messages on their jerseys in the wake of George Floyd’s police murder.
Heat star Jimmy Butler, who is African American, notably decided against wearing any such message.
“I have decided not to. With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn’t go on there as well,” Butler told reporters at the time. “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.”
Butler added: “And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”
Two-time NBA MVP and Nuggets star, Nikola Jokic, who is Serbian, also declined to wear an NBA-sanctioned social justice message on his jersey, according to reporting at the time.
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