The Latest NBA Draft Pick: The Pope?

On Monday, Nov. 23, five NBA players met with the Pope to discuss their role in fighting against social and economic inequality. 

Sports have brought people together for decades. I can remember growing up and seeing my friends and family gather to watch games, celebrate big wins and always complain about losses.

What I had never really thought of growing up was for sports to be political. I was naive to think that the greatest impact sports had on anyone was some friendly competition. 

However, now more than ever, sports teams and players have demonstrated how much influence they have on society as a whole.

Carly Clarke, head coach of the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team, said, “Athletes are often looked upon as role models, icons and inspiration for what people could strive to be or become. So I think their views, and their opinions, sometimes carry more impact.”

When I saw the Pope was meeting with NBA players, I took a moment to laugh. Must be a big fan, I’d thought. 

Even Kyle Korver, a player for the Milwaukee Bucks, admitted he thought it was a fraudulent email when he first got the news, according to the New York Times.

However, when you really think about how much of an impact sports have and how intertwined it really is with these injustices, it doesn’t seem that crazy at all.

Clarke said, “Athletes, in general, have a great platform. And I think world issues, and all issues, need to be discussed in all areas. So, you know, I certainly wouldn't exclude sport from that.”

In a video call with reporters where the players recapped the meeting, Korver said, “[The Pope] said sport is such an opportunity to unify, and he compared it to a team, where you have a common goal and you’re working together, but you all use your own personalities.”

After the incident with Jacob Blake, a Black father in Wisconsin who was left paralyzed after a white officer shot at him in front of his children, athletes from all different leagues boycotted games to take a stand against systemic racism and police brutality. 

Kyle Korver and Sterling Brown, two of the five players that spoke with the Pope, were both members of the Bucks team that initiated this boycott. 

Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said, “This visit is the kind of thing that gives you, I believe, the sense of confirmation that the work that you’re doing is making a difference.”