Brooklyn Nets' Garrett Temple: Playing, earning go long way in furthering cause

NEW YORK -- As protests and social justice movements have taken place across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death, NBA players have discussed what role returning to play has in furthering or distracting from the cause.

The Nets' Garrett Temple, a vice president for the National Basketball Players Association, told ESPN that he believes playing games and earning a paycheck is actually one of the best ways players can combat the systemic oppression of black people.

"The difference in the economic gap between white America and black America is astronomical," Temple said. "I can't in good conscience tell my brethren to throw away millions of dollars in order to create change that I don't see the direct impact of -- if there was a direct impact of laws changing, that would be a different story."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that players who elect not to play in Orlando, Florida, would not be paid for missed games.

The average NBA player salary in 2019-20 is $9.56 million, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. According to a 2017 review of Federal data by the Washington Post, 15 percent of white families reported being millionaires. The number of black households worth more than $1 million has hovered around 2 percent since 1992, the same data shows.

Temple, who has participated in phone calls with players over the past several days, pointed to a Ted Talk that cited that for every dollar a white family in America has from generational wealth, black families will have only 6 cents. Working to close that economic gap, Temple says, is one way to strive toward racial equality in the United States.

The 34-year-old says he believes that players have the opportunity to reinvest some of the money they earn into black communities, citing LeBron James and his I Promise School as an example.

"So, when people bring up not playing -- we are a few black men that can make a little bit of money," Temple said. "It is not a lot of money when [you] think about it in the grand scheme of America. But we can start having a little bit of money, create a little bit of generational wealth.

"But the fact that us not playing will hurt our pockets, I don't think that is the right way to go about it."

Several players have voiced concern over the bubble site games, according to Wojnarowski. Players have cited social justice issues, as well as the restrictions of the Orlando bubble and being separated from their families for weeks or months.

Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony told Turner Sports' Ernie Johnson that he is "still up in the air a little bit" about playing because he is waiting on more information from the league. He did not specifically cite racial issues as a factor in whether or not he will play.

Temple said it ultimately will be an individual decision that a player must make.

The NBA has built a reputation of empowering players and coaches to speak out on political and racial topics, without fear of retaliation. Commissioner Adam Silver has vocally supported players protesting and raising awareness for social change. After Eric Garner's death in 2014, NBA players wore shirts that read, "I Can't breathe" -- Garner's last words before he died as a white officer held him in a lethal chokehold.

Since Floyd's death while in police custody on May 25, players such as Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, Kyrie Irving and others have attended Black Lives Matter protests. Temple said that he is "a big proponent of protests" and would be out protesting if his wife was not pregnant.

Temple sees going to Orlando as a chance to further conversations about actions players and the league can take to create change.

"One reason for us to go to Orlando is while we're there, we can talk amongst each other and maybe come up with a plan, maybe come up with some type of action," Temple said. "We need to come together and come up with something. The attention is going to be on us when we're in that bubble. I know we can think of something that does not hurt the pockets of our young black men.

"At the end of the day, money isn't everything, but it helps. And we need it in our community now more than ever. The economic gap is too wide."