Phil Jackson Says NBA’s Political Involvement Is Turning Fans Off

Renowned Basketball coach Phil Jackson has been put off NBA due to the game becoming overly politicized. Speaking to music producer Rick Rubin on the Tetragrammaton podcast, the coach known for his legendary success with the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls revealed that he has not watched an NBA game in years.

According to Jackson, he first started feeling disillusioned with the NBA during the 2020 bubble postseason experiment, where teams played in a bubble in Orlando during the pandemic. He criticized the NBA for the social justice messages that players were allowed to wear on their jerseys during the playoffs, calling it “wanky.”

Jackson poked fun at the NBA for pushing messages like “Justice” on the back of player jerseys, noting that a player spotting “Justice” went to the basket during the game and another wearing “Equal Opportunity” knocked him down.

That year, there was an approved list of 29 social justice messages from which players could choose to display on the back of their jerseys instead of their last names.

Some of the approved messages that players could wear on their jerseys were I Can’t Breathe, Justice, Equal Opportunity, Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, How Many More, Vote, Equality, Power to the People, Anti-Racist, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can) and Group Economics.

The NBA also painted “Black Lives Matter” on the floor of the main basketball court of the bubble playoffs. According to Jackson, that move by the NBA lacked genuineness.

“It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience into play. And they didn’t know it was turning other people off,” he said.

Jackson emphasized the importance of keeping politics off the court. “People want to see sports as non-political,” he said.

Jackson’s comments come at a time when many professional sports leagues have become increasingly involved in social justice and political issues. While some NBA fans have voiced support for the league’s efforts to raise awareness about social justice issues, there are those who stand with Jackson on the belief that politics has no place in sports.