The NBA is encouraging social justice work with its latest award, ESPN reported. On Thursday (May 13), the professional basketball organization announced the new Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award — an honor that will be bestowed upon the basketball player who best mirrors the social justice and racial equality efforts put forth by Abdul-Jabbar, a civil rights activist and former player of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Nominees for the award will be selected by all 30 NBA teams. A seven-person group comprised of league executives, activists and retired NBA players will narrow the nominations to a select few.
The premiere winner — who will be announced amid the NBA playoffs — will be awarded with $100,000, which will go toward their desired organization. Additionally, the four runner ups will have the opportunity to donate $25,000 to a social justice organization of their choice.
“It’s nice to see the NBA try to promote social justice awareness, and I am very flattered they would see fit to name the award after me,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Undefeated, per ESPN. “I know I have some history with this, so I’m happy the way it’s worked out.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s work toward racial equity and advancement stems back to the civil rights era. He was reportedly inspired to get involved in the fight for justice after the murders of Emmett Till and 15-year-old James Powell, who was fatally shot by a New York police officer in 1964. His efforts include an organized boycott of the 1968 Olympics following Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X’s assassinations, and the Cleveland Summit that backed Muhammad Ali when he refused to enter the U.S. Army amid the Vietnam War.
The NBA social award named in Abdul-Jabbar’s honor comes months after the basketball organization staged a boycott and introduced a slew of social justice initiatives following Jacob Blake’s horrific shooting.