wasn't about money
By Branson Wright, The Plain Dealer
June 01, 2010
CLEVELAND ---- The on-again, off-again, on-again so-called summit
among free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare
Stoudemire and Joe Johnson is a reminder of the last time
professional athletes got together on an issue that made a change.
The summit expected to happen before July 1 could change the
landscape of the NBA. Because of salary-cap restrictions, no more
than two of the free agents could play on the same team. It was Wade
who first brought up this idea for the group to meet and discuss their futures.
This possible meeting could change the face of the NBA for years to
come. For example, the promise of Bosh and James on one team could
influence an owner and or GM to hire the coach Bosh and James wanted.
Not only could a team with Wade and Stoudemire make the Miami Heat an
instant contender, but could that force the Heat brass to make other
moves demanded by Stoudemire and Wade?
What about the balance of power in the league if all of the top free
agents played in the same conference or even in the same division?
Is the upcoming so-called summit about power or money?
In 1967, Jim Brown brought some of the top names in sports together
here in Cleveland for a different reason: to show solidarity in
support of Muhammad Ali's decision as a conscientious objector to the
Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Willie Davis and others
listened to Ali's reasons why he would not fight in the unjust war.
Their meeting was not about increasing income. This summit, unlike
the one proposed by Wade, provided the kind of symbolism many
Americans needed who also objected to the war.
Brown said in an ESPN.com interview four years ago:
That was a situation that had to be addressed. I was the president
of the Black Economic Union, John Wooten was my executive director. I
called John from London and told him to contact all of the top black
athletes from around the country and have them meet Ali in Cleveland
so we could discuss his situation with the draft. They all showed up
and we had about a three-hour meeting with him [Ali] in the back room
of my office in Cleveland. [We] realized that he was very sincere in
his position and that because of his religion, he was not going to go
into the Army and we backed him. … It was a very wonderful thing to
have these young players not worry about risking their careers, but
getting the right information from the horse's mouth so that they
could make judgment on this man's action.
The so-called free agent summit will have as much star power as the
Ali Summit, but the scope of that meeting appears limited to only a game.
Maybe the change these players seek will go beyond their economic increase.
Now that would be a change, and a reminder of a social consciousness past.