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Why 3 players in the NBA bubble are wearing “Group Economics”: How starting a conversation can lead to real change

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) shoots as Memphis Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver (44) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (5) shoots as Memphis Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver (44) defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)

When the NBA restarted its season last month, several things looked different. 

For starters, every game took place at Disney World, in what the league termed “the Bubble,” to help guard against an outbreak among its teams. The league also placed the slogan “Black Lives Matter” on the sides of the court to be readily visible throughout the games. 

The league also allowed each player to choose from a handful of catchphrases they could use in place of their name on the back of their jerseys. “Black Lives Matter” and “Equality” were the most popular. Three players chose the phrase “Group Economics” and have since made headlines as a result.

Group economics is essentially about people in a group banding together to support each other’s businesses. 

David West, one of the first players to bring the idea to the attention of others, gives the example of combating “food deserts” in predominantly minority communities by making it a point to shop at Black-owned grocery stores and restaurants rather than larger chains.  

The initiative is still new to many, though, and even most of the other NBA players weren’t quite sure what the phrase meant. 

But as Memphis Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver points out, that’s kind of the point: “There’s a lot of words we chose that would’ve been fine. Equality, peace, justice. So many great concepts. But that’s not going to spur on a conversation.” 

Those conversations are taking place now, though, and the hope is that it can make a practical difference in the lives of minority communities. 

And, really, those are the kinds of approaches most likely to result in substantive change. 

What are you called to do?

Our society spends far more energy lamenting the existence of problems than trying to find practical ways to fix them. 

And if protests and politics were the first examples to come to mind, don’t underestimate how often we do this in the church as well. 

Christians are stereotyped as judgmental and bigoted in large part because we are frequently known more by what we’re against than what we’re for. We tend to be very good at identifying the problems in our culture and even in our churches but lacking in the resolve to find real, practical ways to fix them. 

The early church grew in large part because those first generations of believers excelled at spending more time addressing than lamenting the very real problems people in their community faced. 

The church today could benefit by following their example, but it has to start with individual believers taking responsibility for the work God is calling them to do. 

How does he want you to help today?

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