Why Were NBA Players Sitting Front Row For President Obama’s Speech On Gun Control?

CREDIT: @ImDavidDunn, Twitter

President Barack Obama announced his plan to take executive action on gun control in an emotional speech on Tuesday at the White House. And sitting just next to his podium were two active NBA players — Bradley Beal and Alan Anderson of the Washington Wizards.

Considering many prominent athletes separate themselves from politics out of fear of alienating sponsors or fans on either side of the spectrum, the presence of Beal and Anderson is significant. The cameras cut to the two frequently throughout Obama’s speech.

The White House invited Beal and Anderson to the speech as representatives of the NBA, according to Washington Post reporter Jorge Castillo. Castillo said that they accepted the invite without hesitation because “they stand strongly with President Obama’s stance on gun control.”

This show of support from the NBA’s stars is no surprise. Last month, the league partnered with the organization Everytown for Gun Safety and director Spike Lee to film 30-second PSAs on the subject. The spots, which began airing on Christmas Day, feature stars such as Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, and Joakim Noah speaking about how gun violence has affected them personally.

While the ads themselves doesn’t address gun control, Everytown actively campaigns for gun reform and publicly criticizes the NRA. And President Obama tweetedhis praise for the PSAs, saying he was “proud of the NBA for taking a stand against gun violence.”

Just last week, New York Knick forward Cleanthony Early was shot in the knee after a robbery in Queens. There is no timetable for Early’s return to the court, though he did make an appearance at Knicks practice on Monday. His teammate Anthony re-emphasized his support for gun control after the incident.

“We got to do something. You feel it,” Anthony said. “I’m feeling it now with a teammate of mine that’s much closer. It’s just something we have to do. We have to figure it out.”

Athletes can have considerable impact when they speak out about social or political issues in this way. Most notably, the football team at the University of Missouri went on strike this past fall to protest the mistreatment of black students on campus, and their decision ended up forcing the university’s president, Tim Wolfe, to resign.