LeBron James
Nov 11, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) looks on before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers eked past the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday to reach a winning record for the first time since 2016. But the biggest story of the night was both teams coming together to voice their concerns over gun control.

Following the Clippers and Bucks before them, the Lakers and Hawks took the court for pre-game warmups wearing T-Shirts with the word “Enough.” on the front and the names of the 12 victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting on the back. A moment of silence was taken prior to tip-off.

It was the latest in a long line of evidence that the NBA is among the most socially conscious professional sports leagues in the world. Players and coaches alike lent their voices to call for gun reform, an issue that has plagued American politics for years.

After the game, LeBron James, who is as revered for his off-court activism as his on-court greatness, spoke to the media about his feelings after the shooting and explained the importance of the message conveyed by both teams (all transcriptions via Christian Rivas of Silver Screen and Roll):

“I think it’s about recognizing about what’s going on in society and for us to be so close to this situation, not being too far away (from Thousand Oaks),” James said. “First of all, my prayers and condolences to all of the families that lost loved ones in such an act that none of us ever want to be a part of, obviously, but never even want to hear about no matter how close or far you are.

“For us to have a commissioner like we have to even allow us to do something like this, number one, that’s amazing. That’s why we all love Adam. And then for us to recognize both teams, I seen the Clippers do it as well in their last home game, just recognizing a very troubling time,” James continued. “And that we, I won’t say understand, but that we’re here for the families in health and in support.”

“Probably the same (thing) that went through everybody’s mind,” James said of his reaction the shooting. “‘Not again.’ ‘Oh wow.’ ‘What the hell?’ Probably some more explicit terms that I won’t say right here. Just how do we clean up this … I think it all comes back to this gun situation we have in America, gun violence. I definitely don’t want to go into that right now but I can do it at a later point.

“These people are just being able to just go and buy guns and do things with them and innocent lives are being taken at a young age, young ages. When I was younger, we didn’t really have to worry about gun violence too much. If you had a problem with somebody you kind of fist it out and move on. Now it’s like people are shooting it out and don’t even have a problem with somebody, they just have a problem with themselves or a problem with a situation that they’re in,” James continued. “It’s just very troubling times for everyone and for parents.

“How can you feel comfortable sending your kids to school, or church, or to the movies or to the mall? Those were kind of like the great havens when I was growing up … it’s kind of scary at this point in time.”

As someone who lives close to Thousand Oaks and was worried about friends the night of the shooting, this is an all too common occurrence. No one has the right answers but indecision and inaction have been an issue for a long time. Athletes may not have the power to change what is a fundamental terror in the United States but their collective voice can inspire everyday people to continue fighting for change and policy implementation.

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