LOS ANGELES – Bradley Beal has a lot on his mind right now, no surprise with the Washington Wizards having experienced a tumultuous and disappointing start to the season.
But away from the hardwood there is another head-to-head rivalry centered around the nation’s capital that has captured Beal’s attention — the midterm elections, fraught with political ramifications midway through Donald Trump’s presidential term.
Beal wants action. He previously described Trump as a “clown” and admitted that living in D.C. and becoming a young father had steered him toward taking a more outspoken approach on social matters.
And while some prominent NBA names such as Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich have voiced meaningful opinions ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Beal urged his fellow players not to spurn the opportunity to maximize the positive policy the league has toward encouraging free speech.
“Most definitely it is important for us to make our voice heard,” Beal said. “ … everybody looks at us as role models and these icons, but we are citizens, we pay our taxes just like everybody else. We put our shoes on just (like) everybody else.
“We are not much different. It is just our incomes that are different. We are all human beings, we all have rights, and basketball is not going to be here forever. Our union and our league stands behind us if we are going to (speak out). No knock on the NFL, but the NBA is always supportive in what we believe is right and what we believe is wrong. I think it is important that you have that, that type of trust and relationship within your game.”
Golden State Warriors coach Kerr made an emotional plea in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, saying that “our leaders pretend to care” and urging the public to “vote them out” on Tuesday.
Spurs coach Popovich endorsed Beto O’Rourke in his Texas senate race against incumbent Ted Cruz. Ahead of a recent game in San Antonio, LeBron James entered the arena sporting a cap that supported O’Rourke.
While the NFL’s relationship with politics and protest continues to be a thorny mess, the NBA has experienced few such incendiary issues, primarily due to its willingness to avoid a clunky, heavy-handed approach.
Players generally are free to say what they like and a Colin Kaepernick-type situation is essentially unthinkable in the NBA, on a number of levels.
Beal’s desire to take a vested interest in matters that affect the future of the country increased dramatically recently.
“I didn’t really realize the importance of everything until I had my son,” said Beal, whose son Bradley Jr. was born in July. “I think a lot about the type of country he will be growing up in and the kind of life he will have and how I will have to teach him differently about how I was raised.
“Having a newborn is a challenge in itself with me being a young guy and a young black guy, figuring out how I am going to raise him in this society, the judgmental world that we live in, and everything that comes with it. Everything is crazy in that sense and being in D.C. and being in the political world we are surrounded by it every single day and in a way it is unavoidable.”
Beal is focused on trying to spark improvement in the Wizards’ 2-7 campaign, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming emotionally invested in this week’s electoral battle, and it won’t prevent him from casting a ballot.
“Voting is so very important for me,” he added. “We control the direction in which our country can go and who are the leaders that we think are fit to do so. Everybody always thinks their vote doesn’t count but every one matters, every one counts. If you don’t want to be that person who is regretful in the end, it is important to get out there and vote.
“It is up to us to try to make a change. There is only one way to change it.”
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