The Lakers held a Zoom conference on Tuesday with players, coaches and some executives to discuss the ongoing protests and civil unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, according to people who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Former Lakers great Karem Abdul-Jabbar, who never has shied away from speaking about social injustice, was the guest speaker and he was riveting, according to people familiar with the call.
Participants talked about how the Lakers organization and players can help steer a positive change going forward in Los Angeles and around the country in a racially charged environment.
LeBron James, who has been expressing his views about the problems African Americans face daily in this country, was one of the prominent players to speak Tuesday.
The session was seen as an important step after Floyd, an African American, died following his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, had his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes after the apprehension and has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers were at the scene and they will face charges of aiding and abetting murder, according to reports on Wednesday.
Abdul-Jabbar was asked “a lot of great questions” about how he dealt with racial issues while playing basketball during the 1960s and '70s, when there was civil unrest around the country.
James told Abdul-Jabbar how cool it was to see the picture of a young Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and other prominent athletes gathered in 1967 in Cleveland with other civil rights activists. The group had come together to support Ali’s position in his refusal to be drafted.
Abdul-Jabbar wrote an opinion piece in The Times last Saturday about the protests and why people are pushed to the edge.
The conversation was also about racist situations that James has faced.
James had a racial slur spray painted on the gate outside of his Brentwood house in June 2017. James wasn’t home at the time. He was leading the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
That hasn’t deterred him from speaking out when another African American is killed by police, saying in one Twitter post after Floyd's death, “Why Doesn’t America Love US!!!!????Too.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel and general manager Rob Pelinka also spoke on the call Tuesday.
Team owner Jeanie Buss and Tim Harris, the president of business operations and chief operating officer, were part of the virtual conference as well.
The meeting went for about an hour.
“The Lakers did a great job letting their players have a voice,” one person said. “The Lakers understand what’s happening. They have always been about helping their community and that hasn’t stopped even now when the Lakers and others sports teams are needed the most.”