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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Rarely has Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green ever shied away from using his voice.
He has trash talked his opponents when he defends them. He has barked at officials when he disagrees with a call. He has engaged with teammates both with praise and criticism.
The Golden State Warriors (15-50) are not part of the NBA’s resumed season at the Disney Campus site. They are one of eight teams not participating as the NBA and players union agreed to exempt lottery-bound teams to maximize safety during the coronavirus pandemic. So lately, Green has used his voice to address much bigger issues than his on-court play.
Green is among a handful of NBA stars who have teamed up with Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James on “More Than a Vote,” an initiative aimed to address voting suppression in Black communities. He has opposed the “Dental Practice Act,” a California bill that would require dentists to conduct in-person examinations instead of approving treatment plans for aligners. Green said the bill would make treatment increasingly unaffordable in the Black community. And last month, Green and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy co-wrote an op-ed for ESPN explaining why the NCAA needs to pay college athletes, and how its current system exploits minorities.
“I’ll continue to push these issues and stand behind those willing to fight for us as Black people that are being oppressed in so many different situations,” Green told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s important we continue to move forward and continue to stand up for what we believe in. We can’t stop now. The fight is just beginning. It’s far from over.”
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green Green has been using his voice to address issues off the court. (Photo: Dan Hamilton, USA TODAY Sports)
Green plans to address those issues as an analyst for “The Arena,” a new one-hour NBA show that TNT will launch Monday that will air nightly through Friday before continuing into the restart of the NBA regular season (July 30) and playoffs (Aug. 17). Inevitably, the show will highlight a new saga between Green and Charles Barkley, who have exchanged public barbs in recent years. But the show’s panel, also led by future Hall-of-Fame NBA player Dwyane Wade and sports anchor Cari Champion, will delve into COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and systemic racism.
It seems timely considering Green’s observation that “our lives are at stake right now” less than four months away from the presidential election between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and longtime Democratic senator Joe Biden. Green is among many NBA voices who have criticized Trump for his divisive rhetoric, particularly toward the Black community. Aware that Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in his home swingstate (Michigan) by just under 11,000 votes, Green remains mindful that any effort to address both increased voter registration and efforts to suppress voting in the Black community could determine the election.
“That’s such a small margin, if we do our job as the African-American community and get out and vote, that just does not happen,” Green said. “So maybe we’re not in a pandemic right now. Maybe things are handled a little differently. But due to a extreme lack of leadership, these are the issues we’re faced [with] today as a country. I just want to do my part. If you can change a few minds along the way, you can possibly change the course of history.”
Green, 30, admittedly did not always have that perspective. As an 18-year-old, Green voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Election amid enthusiasm that the United States’ first Black president could address systemic racism. But he stayed away from the polls in 2012 amid optimism Obama had enough votes for reelection, as well as in 2016 amid cynicism that his vote wouldn’t lead to much change.
Green has a different worldview now about the importance of elections. He has also become increasingly frustrated about systemic racism following a string of incidents involving law enforcement killing of unarmed Black people, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Elijah McClain.
“Our lives are at stake right now,” Green said. “Voting is very important for us as Americans, and voting is very important for us as a Black community with what we face every day.”
Green, who is an investor in teledentristy leader SmileDirectClub, has become increasingly vocal about the “Dental Practice Act” by urging California state senators not to approve the bill that was recently passed through the state Assembly.
Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) has sought passage of the bill, which requires patients seeking teeth-straightening treatment to receive x-rays to ensure quality care. Green argues that low-income families would struggle significantly to meet those requirements. In an interview with MarketWatch, Low conceded, “this will disproportionately hurt communities of color; not everyone can go to health-care providers. But the reality is that subpar treatment can do real harm, the risk is too high.” That candor only reinforced Green’s concern.
“When you have a guy in Evan Low, who can come out and be quoted saying, ‘This will disproportionately hurt communities of color’ and yet he’s still going to push a bill, he’s telling you what his agenda is,” Green said. “He’s telling you what he cares about, and Black people aren’t one of them. When you start talking about Black communities, we don’t have a voice.”
Green spoke from experience. He grew up in Saginaw, Michigan in a single-parent household. He wore metal braces as a young child, as his mother, Mary Babers, struggled to make those payments.
“I had to somehow come up with $7,000 for me to get metal braces, which we couldn’t afford,” Green said. “I understand how important it is for this bill not to get pushed through. There are ways, and obviously teledentristy being one of them, that parents can now fix their children’s teeth for way less.”
Green has just become just as outspoken lately about the NCAA. After penning an op-ed with Murphy about the need for the NCAA to pay college athletes, Green said he and Murphy have since “been in constant contact” about ensuring that happens. Green questions the salaries commanded by accomplished coaches and why players are not allowed to profit from any use of their likeness.
“We have a multi-billion dollar industry and you don’t pay the people that drive that industry,” said Green, who believes more basketball players will flock to the G-League. “It is a black and white thing. This is a civil rights issue. The NCAA is a dictatorship. It’s time that ends. I commend those guys that have decided to skip over college. More and more players will continue to do it until the NCAA does what is right.”
All of which has left Green with a busy schedule even if he has no games to play. He has used this downtime to enjoy his family and work out with his trainers. But it remains unclear if the NBA will host an inter-squad tournament among the league’s eight-non participating teams or if each team will simply train in its home market.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” Green said. “But whenever the season does return, I’ll be ready to go.”
So while Green currently has nowhere to dribble, the Warriors’ star does not plan to shut up about social justice issues anytime soon.
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