Hall of Fame basketball coach Phil Jackson revealed that he hasn’t watched an NBA game in years because it has become “too political.”
Jackson made the remarks during an appearance on the Tetragrammaton podcast with music producer Rick Rubin.
Rubin asked Jackson if he still watches many NBA games. Jackson explained how he was “put off” by the game he has adored his entire life, saying that he first started not being an NBA fan during the 2020 bubble postseason games, where teams played in a bubble in Orlando during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They did something that was kind of wanky, they did a bubble down in Orlando, and all the teams that could qualify went down there and stayed down there,” Jackson recalled.
Jackson made jokes about the NBA for pushing social justice messages on player jerseys in 2020.
“They had things on their back like ‘Justice’ and a funny thing happened like, ‘Justice went to the basket and Equal Opportunity knocked him down.’ Some of my grandkids thought it was pretty funny to play up those names. I couldn’t watch that,” Jackson said.
In July 2020, the NBA revealed 29 approved jersey names centered on social justice, including Justice, Equal Opportunity, Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can’t Breathe, Equality, Power to the People, Anti-Racist, and Group Economics.
“They even had slogans on the floor,” Jackson noted, likely referencing when the NBA painted “Black Lives Matter” on floors of basketball courts during the bubble playoffs.
The #NBA delivered on its promise to print "Black Lives Matter" on the game court for the league's restart in Orlando. The league unveiled the new court. Black Lives Matter is written on the floor in large black print‼️#uaccessmagazine pic.twitter.com/979keuXV1g
— UAccessOnline (@infouaccessmag) July 22, 2020
“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,” Jackson said, adding that people want to view sports as non-political.
Jackson’s comments reference the height of the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
He noted that several NBA players have been politicians but urged them to keep their politics out of the game.
Phil Jackson, widely seen as the greatest coach in NBA history, says he doesn’t watch the NBA anymore because of all the political slogans introduced in 2020. He’s not alone in this. My oldest daughter and I used to love watching but it got too political to watch. pic.twitter.com/bV6Sb0qvrK
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) April 22, 2023
In 2016, Jackson retired from coaching basketball after winning 11 NBA championships, five with the Los Angeles Lakers and six with the Chicago Bulls.