Phil Jackson says NBA was ‘trying to cater to an audience’ during COVID-19 Orlando bubble, got political
Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson isn’t watching much basketball these days as the 11-time NBA champion coach said the game has become too political.
On the "Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin" podcast, Jackson was asked whether he's been watching a good amount of NBA basketball since his retirement from coaching in 2011. "No. I don’t," he replied.
Jackson said he stopped watching a lot of games after the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida, which was created in order to finish the 2019-2020 season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They went into the lockout year, and they did something that was kind of wonky. They did a bubble down in Orlando, and all the teams that could qualify went down there, and stayed down there," he continued. "And they had things on their backs like ‘Justice.’ I made a little funny thing like, 'Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked him down.' . . . So, my grandkids thought that was pretty funny to play up those names. So, I couldn't watch that."
Jackson seemed to be discussing the NBA allowing players to wear social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys during the bubble in Orlando.
He went on to explain that he felt the league was "catering" to a certain audience, which turned fans off who wanted politics out of sports.
"They even had slogans on the floor, on the baseline," Jackson continued when asked what turned him off. "It was catering. It was trying to cater to an audience, or trying to bring a certain audience into play. And they didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as non-political.
"We’ve had a lot of different type of players that have gone on to be . . . Bill Bradley was a senator, a number of baseball players have been representatives and senators. . . . But their politics stay out of the game. It doesn’t need to be there."
The NBA bubble in Orlando began during the summer of 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN.
Jackson won six NBA titles as head coach of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s and five titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000s.
He was hired to be the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks in 2014 before being fired after three seasons.