The National Basketball Association has invariably been at the forefront of social activism. Unlike most other significant organized bodies in sports, it hasn’t been afraid to stand up for the needs of the greater community of which it’s part even at the expense of its stakeholders. In this regard, it’s fortunate to have progressive officials who take the long view and understand that, often, moving forward means first taking a step back. Earlier this month, for instance, it didn’t think twice about suspending the 2019-20 campaign after it recorded its first positive new coronavirus case. And then late last week, some 100 of its top officials saw fit to voluntarily take whopping pay cuts — equivalent to a fifth of their salaries — in order to ease the effects of the pandemic on other employees.
Make no mistake. The NBA is a business, and the league office works to bring in the revenue for its 30 franchise owners. In large measure, the profit motive is why it views cancelation of the remainder of the season as a last resort. After having already seen hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain as a result of China’s partnership pullout in protest of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s exercise of free speech, the last thing it needs is to see loss projections include nine zeros. And yet what it will not do is put public safety on the line just so it can secure immediate return on its investment.
Indeed, the NBA is blazing a trail in the way it’s handling the crisis. Many of its endeavors have rightly been highlighted, their prominence in social media aided in no small measure by the active engagement of its players. Still many others have not, as clear an indication as any of its principal objective to help at a time when help is needed, period. Eyeballs are optional — immaterial, even. Take the Jr. NBA at Home component of its global NBA Together campaign. Found on https://jr.nba.com/jrnbaathome/, it serves as a repository of content to inspire the youth and other members of families around the globe to stay active and connected.
Those who head over to the site will find a no-frills layout featuring workouts and drills shared by NBA and WNBA stars and tacticians. The videos are short, perfect for a target audience with short attention spans. More importantly, they’re replicable in confined spaces — enabling practitioners to stay healthy and safe while following social distancing protocols. From the outside looking in, the project comes off as one that both means business and knows its business, a testament to the work done behind the scenes by league senior vice-president David Krichavsky and his youth development staff.
With quarantine measures in place to restrict the spread of COVID-19, the impact of Jr. NBA at Home cannot be emphasized enough. It’s reaching out through daily posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as on other digital channels, and, in the process, underscoring the value of togetherness. Isolation doesn’t mean being alone. Staying at home doesn’t mean being inactive. And if the five and a half million views (and counting) are any indication, the league is connecting with fans extremely well and succeeding the way it has long been: as a family.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.