The NBA is set to step directly into a contentious debate with an anti-gun advertising campaign scheduled to air during its marquee Christmas Day games, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The league joined up with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit aimed at being a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association by pushing for tight gun control. It is funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The ads will feature some of the biggest names in basketball — Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls and reigning MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors — and is scheduled to air on ABC and ESPN, with the league donating the airtime. The NBA's Christmas Day games typically generate high viewership ratings and feature top teams. The 30-second spot, which also features families of gun violence victims and survivors, is slated to run five times Friday. It opens with Curry describing a shooting. "I heard about a shooting involving a 3-year-old girl over the summer. My daughter Riley's that age," he says in the ad. Later Paul says, "My parents used to say: 'A bullet doesn't have a name on it.'"
The relationship between the league and Everytown for Gun Safety was brokered by anti-gun-violence advocate, film director and Knicks fan Spike Lee, the Times reported. Everytown often works with celebrities and those affected by gun violence to push for measures like expanding mandatory background checks. Gun control, which is not specifically mentioned in the ad, has become subject of much debate in the U.S. and is often divided along party lines. Despite the potential for controversy, there reportedly wasn't much debate within the league.
“We’re not worried about any political implications,” said Kathleen Behrens, the league’s president of social responsibility and player programs, according to the New York Times.
The NBA has seen its players become increasingly politically minded over recent years. Superstar LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012 wore black hoodies to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African-American teen who was wearing a hoodie when he was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida. Anthony of the Knicks marched in Baltimore in April against the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died in police custody. The ad, however, marks the first time a major professional sports league has lent its name and weight to an anti-gun-violence message.
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) December 23, 2015