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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Amid a national reckoning on race that has consumed the sports world, NBA players are poised to shape the conversation — and perhaps even influence the upcoming election.

The state of play: The NBA bubble has been politicized from the start, with social justice messages everywhere. But the Milwaukee Bucks' strike on Wednesday set a new bar and made the NBA a leader in a movement it had previously only participated in.

  • President Trump responded on Thursday, saying the NBA has "become more like a political organization."
  • "They've put a lot of slogans out, but I think what we need to do is turn that [into] actual action," added Jared Kushner.

Driving the news: LeBron James has already taken action by heading up More Than A Vote, an athlete-led group devoted to fighting voter suppression in Black electoral districts and turning stadiums into polling sites for Election Day.

  • The non-profit organization, which is made up of Black athletes from the NBA and other leagues, just launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to address poll worker shortages.
  • Since voting site volunteers are typically older, there's concern about them staying home this year due to COVID-19 risks, so election officials are grateful for the spotlight athletes are bringing to the issue.
  • "This is the ballgame," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told NYT. "This is not just an important partnership. This is critical."

The big picture: While their Black activist predecessors acted alone or in small groups, today's NBA players have strength in numbers.

  • When Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, he couldn't stay in the same hotels or eat at the same restaurants as his teammates.
  • When the Bucks went on strike, they were inside a different kind of bubble — one that has brought players closer together and unified the league.
"In a college campus-like environment they've studied history, discussed politics and watched the news — doing all this as a group, undistracted by travel and personal lives to an extent that would not have been possible outside the bubble as illness, violence and chaos have swirled outside."
— Jonathan Eig, WashPost

The bottom line: As a new generation of athletes gets more involved politically, the role of sports changes. This comes at a cost, and NBA writers have already suggested that it's hurting viewership.

Listen: WNBA's Renee Montgomery on More Than A Vote

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 24, 2020 - Sports

When athletes find out about trades on Twitter

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's a new tradition in sports: finding out you've been traded on social media.

The latest: Ricky Rubio found out he'd been traded by the Suns last week while scrolling Twitter at his home in Barcelona, he told The Athletic.

  • Kelly Oubre found out he'd been dealt after a workout at the Suns' facility.
  • "I just see people looking at me with like a glare in their eyes," he said. "I was like, hmm. And then Cheick Diallo was like, 'Hey, my boy, check Twitter.'"
34 mins ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  2. Politics: Schumer says Senate will stay through weekend to vote on COVID relief — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  3. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses.
  4. Business: Firms develop new ways to inoculate the public.
  5. Local: Ultra-rich Florida community got vaccinations in January.