In recent years, the Portland Trail Blazers have united the NBA with political and racial activism throughout the nation. Players have used their platform as a mouthpiece for voting rights, police brutality, equitable education and economic policies.
Blazers guard CJ McCollum has combined activism, journalism and sports to create his new talk show series “ReMaking America: A Conversation with CJ McCollum.” The first episode aired on The Players TV, of which McCollum is an investor, and Sling TV on Oct. 20. Complete episodes are also made available on YouTube. McCollum hosted a roundtable discussion with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris.
Episode one focuses heavily on the importance of voting, specifically for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities. A banner promoting the website IWillVote.com appears at the bottom of the screen throughout the discussion.
“The right to vote is a privilege and an honor, and something that we should all continue to step forward and complete,” McCollum said at the beginning of the episode.
Kamala Harris further discussed the importance of voting and what she learned during her criminal justice career.
“One of the reasons I became a lawyer is because of a great American man by the name of Thurgood Marshall, who was the first Black person to serve on the United States Supreme Court,” Kamala said. “One way I think about the importance of voting is honoring the ancestors, right? All those people who shed blood for us to be able to vote.”
The discussion centered around three topics: police brutality, equal opportunity education and the importance of accurately portraying Black history.
Mitchell’s mother was a teacher and he attended both public and private schools. He spoke about his experiences in the education system.
“I went to private school and I went to public school, so I’ve seen the two different Americas in this world,” Mitchell said. “How can we continue to find ways to push education? I’m 24 and there are people way older than me who don’t even know what Juneteenth is … if we want to get to the ultimate goal of equality, whether it is through education, or systemic racism or voter suppression, whatever it is, the best thing we can do is inform.”
Kamala Harris talked about how all of these issues are directly impacted by the politicians and officials who are directly elected by voters.
“Elections matter when you think about the fact that we need to have a president and leadership in the White House that knows, if a Black child has a Black teacher, by the end of third grade they are 13% more likely to go to college,” Kamala Harris said.
Kamala Harris praised the three athletes on their commitment to activism, and their willingness to use their platform to promote the change they each believe in.
“What you guys are doing in terms of the activism and the leadership and the organizing, and the bully pulpit that you each have … it is so powerful,” Kamala Harris said.
McCollum has been historically vocal on social issues and has dabbled in journalism in the past. He earned a degree in journalism from Lehigh University in 2013 and has hosted “Playlist,” an iHeartRadio show, and a weekly sports talk morning show on 620 Rip City Radio. Additionally, he runs a high school student-mentor program for aspiring journalists called CJ’s Press Pass.
“Remaking America,” McCollum’s first big project, is a testament to the fact that athletics can be used for political activism, and that players can be more than just athletes. The Trail Blazers have committed as a team to promote equity and justice for the BIPOC community in Portland, and “ReMaking America” has the potential to reach the nation as a whole.