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Could increased NBA player activism make the Wizards a more popular free agent destination?

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In the short term, this is unlikely due to cap space. But in future seasons, it’s possible that this could change as the team eventually gets more flexibility.

Wizards and Mystics Juneteenth Peaceful Protest March
The Washington Wizards have become a more active team for social causes. Since they’re in the nation’s capital, perhaps the team could become more popular as a destination for free agents in future years since it’s hard for them to make major moves right now.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

This year has been marked by the coronavirus pandemic and a reckoning with systemic racism in American society. NBA players, including the Washington Wizards, have been more active this year, including a Juneteenth march they held in the city with the Washington Mystics.

The US’s federal elections were held last week with former Vice President Joe Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris declared the winners to be the next President and Vice President, respectively. Anecdotally, more NBA players were supportive of Biden and Harris than incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. That could help improve Washington’s perception to NBA players.

So the election, but more importantly, increased player activism got me thinking. Does that help make Washington and the Wizards, a more desirable destination for free agents?

When we look at the Wizards’ situation on the court, of course we know the answer is no. That’s mostly because the Wizards are nearly maxed out on the salary cap heading into free agency. In addition, the team is still anxiously wondering how John Wall will play once he returns from an Achilles injury. The answer to the latter question will likely determine whether the team can realistically stave off a “blow it up” rebuild for another year, maybe two.

But if we look at what the Wizards and Washington offers overall compared to the rest of the country, once the team’s salary cap issues are taken out, I think Washington can become a much more desirable city to play in in the longer term. Consider these points:

  • As of October, 90 percent of eligible NBA players were registered to vote — Today’s players are more likely to demand change through the ballot box if their current representatives aren’t to their liking.
  • In the short term (through at least 2025), A Biden and Harris Administration will be more receptive to their causes — The current Administration has been quite hostile to the NBA as a league and its players. Biden and Harris will be the exact opposite considering that players have endorsed them. It helps to have activist players on the Wizards be physically near the White House, Capitol and the Supreme Court. Zoom calls can only go so far.
  • International players can still make their causes known — Just because someone like Issac Bonga can’t vote in the USA doesn’t mean that he can’t be active politically. He can vote for the party he wants in his native Germany and be in touch with the German ambassador to the USA. D.C. has the embassies to most countries in the world with a few exceptions like Iran and North Korea.
  • Supportive ownership — Monumental Sports & Entertainment has encouraged the players to use their voices and platforms to fight for their causes, arguably more than many other teams. In addition to the Juneteenth March, the Mystics got the entire WNBA to not play their games on Aug. 26 due to unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Monumental never retaliated, and I don’t see them doing the same to the Wizards in a similar situation.

Do you see Washington and the Wizards become more desirable destinations for NBA free agents, whether now but also in the future? Let us know in the comments below.