ORLANDO - The Orlando Magic and its players are fully committed to doing everything in their power to create real, systemic change.
A key to that happening is good communication. Talking with local leaders and politicians, sharing ideas, expressing concerns, and learning about what’s being instituted in their communities are crucial.
That’s why spending some time on an interactive call with Orange County Sheriff John Mina on Friday before their team practice was extremely enlightening for the Magic’s players and coaches as they continue to fight against racial injustice and police brutality.
“It was just an educational meeting for us to talk to him about some stuff that we wanted to get clarification on, some of his thoughts,” Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. “Things that we can both do to help the fight against social injustice. I just think it was a good meeting for both sides and for us players to just learn more about certain processes of how it works. A lot of positives came out of that meeting and it was good for us to have that.”
Earlier Friday, the NBA, team owners, coaches and players officially agreed to a resumption of the NBA playoffs with an understanding that more must be done to initiate positive change. From converting team arenas to voting venues for the 2020 general election to raising voting awareness through advertising campaigns during the playoffs, the league is preparing to do much more for the movement.
Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams, who’s been very active the last few months fighting for change, isn’t surprised the NBA as a whole was able to come together and figure out a way to continue the playoffs while strategizing a plan to help transform our society.
“It shows a big step,” he said. “It shows that everybody is committed for the same goal, and that’s to help communities and help this world. It’s bigger than just basketball. It was great to have players and owners meet together and really try to make a change. We got to voice our opinions, and they are in agreement with us and they’re in full support. I think it was a big moment for us as an association, but also to the world. There’s a lot of power that we hold. There’s a lot of power that the owners hold.”
Playoff games that were originally scheduled Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks, the Magic’s first round playoff opponent, boycotted Game 5. The Magic, along with all the other NBA teams, fully supported that decision and stood by them until everyone in the league discussed and agreed to a plan moving forward. WNBA games were also postponed earlier this week, as were some MLB, NHL and MLS games as sports leagues continue to use their platforms to push for reform. Game 5 between the Magic and Bucks will now take place on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Florida and ESPN with Milwaukee holding a 3-1 series lead.
The shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin was the latest incident to prompt outrage around the nation. The hope now is that with the NBA taking the action it did this week, more will be done to reverse these social issues.
“It’s definitely been emotional,” Carter-Williams said. “There’s been ups and downs. There’s been frustration. I’ve been angry. Nobody likes seeing that. Nobody likes when Black people are being mistreated. That’s something that obviously shouldn’t happen. And when it does time and time again, people get frustrated and people want it to stop. So, I’m just trying to do my part. Whatever I can do, whoever I can speak to, wherever I need to go, I just want to play my part.”
The meeting with Mina was the latest one Magic coaches and players have had with local officials and leaders on issues related to racial injustice. Prior to arriving at Disney for the season restart, they took part in an interactive call with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition President and Executive Director Desmond Meade, who led the FRRC to a historic victory in 2018 with the successful passage of Amendment 4, a grassroots citizen’s initiative which restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. Amendment 4 represented the single largest expansion of voting rights in the United States in half a century and brought an end to 150 years of a Jim Crow-era law in Florida.
“I had some communication with Desmond (on Wednesday morning) and it’s going to be something we’ll continue to do,” Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford said. “This is something that’s going to take time and we have to stay at it and we have to be diligent and forceful. We have to continue to do it, so we do make the right change and we vote people in that are thinking along those same lines.”
Carter-Williams, meanwhile, contributed to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ MLK Virtual Town Hall Meeting on July 15, which also featured Mina and Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon.
The Magic have also worked closely with Let Your Voice Be Heard, Inc., which is composed of community advocates and residents who have chosen to aid the fight for change and reform in impoverished neighborhoods by providing tools and resources that are so desperately needed in under-served and under-represented neighborhoods.
The Magic are also developing a Social Justice Internal Task Force, which will address everything from recruiting and hiring practices to staff education to governmental, business and law enforcement relation initiatives.
“One of the things that Bryan Stevenson (Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative) has talked to all of us about doing is educating ourselves and then helping our players become more educated also,” Clifford said. “We are going to be working with a number of people in the community in different areas and today was one of those calls. It was productive and I think the players got a lot out of it. And like I said, we will be doing more of that in the future.”