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September 4, 2020

Why Gen Z Cares About the NBA Strikes

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It started with the Milwaukee Bucks’ boycott of their playoff game after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The players felt that they couldn’t ignore the incident, that they had to take some kind of action to stand up for the Black community. Following the Bucks, the NBA postponed three of their Game 5 playoff series. A few hours later, three WNBA, three Major League Baseball, and five Major League Soccer games were postponed as they stood in support of the Bucks’ protest. 

Eighty percent of NBA players are Black men. We cannot love them for the joy and entertainment that they bring to the world, yet sit in silence and fail to use our platforms and resources to amplify their voices when they demand the justice and equality that America has promised us all, but denied Black people for too long.from the Los Angeles Lakers’ statement in support of their players

Naomi Osaka, the most-paid female athlete, quickly decided to withdraw her tennis semi-finals match to join the protests. She posted this statement on social media soon after: 


In her statement, she explains, “before I am an athlete, I am a black woman.” Like many of her peers, Osaka takes this issue personally. She believes this issue cuts through to the core of who she is and what her responsibility is as a Black woman. 

In contrast to the more violent protests that are often highlighted in the news, there has been little controversy following the sports’ protests. They were peaceful demonstrations, meant to share a message of equality and the worth of Black lives. Although there are many fans who are concerned for the NBA’s future in politics, most people respected the NBA’s brief delay. 

How is Gen Z reacting to this?

Gen Z is passionate about social justice. When we look back to social justice movements in history, we see that it’s often the younger generations who are more willing to fight for new possibilities. When it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, many members of Gen Z see themselves as advocates for those who are suffering. The counter-argument of All Lives Matter has been upsetting for this reason, because to Gen Z it feels like it deliberately ignores the Black community’s struggle to be treated with equal dignity.

NBA players agreed to resume the playoff games last Saturday rather than discontinuing the whole season. However, this initial protest shows how influential a person’s or team’s platform can be. People like Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Barack Obama are getting involved in a plan of action to follow these protests, hoping for long-lasting change. This newfound power for NBA players fuels the younger generation as they hope to hold that same influence in their own lives as they fight for what they believe in. 

Taking it to home base 

As parents, it’s important to hear our children and take the time to truly understand their perspectives. Of course, there will be many instances where you and your kid agree with each other. But as they grow up and develop their own opinions and worldview, their ideas may grow further away from your own as they establish their individuality. When differences between you and your teen arise, the goal isn’t to win the conversation, but rather to bridge the gap of understanding one another; to learn how to respect each other even in your differences. When we show our teen that we care about their thoughts and opinions, we have a greater opportunity to point them to a Christ-centered approach to difficult issues. Sometimes in these conversations, we can even find that our motivations aren’t too different, we just have different ways of expressing, defending, or applying our core values. 

John 13:34-35 reminds us,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Our nation is riddled with troubling political unrest that becomes more and more complicated each and every day. In light of the NBA protests, we can present our opinions in respectful ways and allow others to do the same so that we can continue in mutual love for one another. These issues are painfully personal for many people in America right now. And as your teen tries to understand and learn about the world, we encourage you to provide a safe space to express thoughts and feelings that arise, and continue to love them unconditionally. As we create safe spaces for conversation we have the opportunity to show them how the message of the Gospel and the hope through Christ will be the one constant that provides lasting change in our world.  

Discussion questions

Talking about racial tensions can be extremely difficult. Take some time to reflect on your own thoughts, and if you’re ready, communicate with your teen about how they’re feeling as well. 

Reflection questions:
  1. Is the topic of social justice something your family talks about? 
  2. How can you create a safe, open space to discuss the topic of social justice with your child? 
  3. How would you feel if your child disagreed with your opinion? Why? 
  4. What are your feelings on the NBA protests?
  5. Is there value to protests like these? Why or why not?
  6. How did Jesus respond to the social injustices of His day? How can we take on the same heart and posture?

Questions to ask your teen: 

  1. How do you feel about the NBA protests? 
  2. What do your friends think? Have you talked with them about this?
  3. Do you think the Church does a good job of talking about social justice issues? 
  4. Would you ever consider protesting for a cause you feel strongly about? 
  5. Why is it important to acknowledge issues like these? 
  6. How can we approach political and social issues biblically? 
  7. How did Jesus respond to the social injustices of His day? How can we take on the same heart and posture?

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