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The National Basketball League is surrounding itself with Pride basketballs and a ton of LGBTQ inclusive hope

The NBL and its 10 teams are all aligned to support LGBTQ inclusion this week.

NBL Rd 8 - Melbourne United v Sydney Kings
Steve Dimopoulos, State Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events (R) and his partner, John Cardona, pose with rainbow basketballs to celebrate the return of the 2024 NBL Pride Round.
Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images

The National Basketball League is in the midst of its “Pride Round,” one week during the season when all of its 10 teams across Australia honor and celebrate, in multiple ways, the LGBTQ community.

What’s unique about the NBL’s approach — for what in the United States is often simply referred to as a team’s “Pride Night” or “Pride Game” — is the entire NBL banding together at the same time, over the course of a week, to host these events.

Yet as NBL CEO David Stevenson told Outsports, it was the league listening to communities, and hearing from clubs, that this powerful joint initiative took hold.

“What was important in that journey was discussions had with clubs about how to make progress in this area,” Stevenson said. “It wasn’t just the league front office making a decision, it was a conversation with the clubs. It was a dialogue built over a period of time.”

In the United States, the NHL and MLB have gotten themselves in part embroiled with players who refuse to wear a rainbow jersey or rainbow cap.

The NBL has taken a different approach. Jerseys for the Pride round will have a small rainbow-colored Champion logo (Champion is the sponsor), or a regular-colored logo.

The selection is a very subtle nod to the LGBTQ community and Pride, but it allows different players to make choices based on where they are, without visually upending the proverbial apple cart.

“We feel, as much as we’re proud of the work that’s gone in, we’re on a journey,” Stevenson said. “Every member of our NBL community is in a different place in their journey on this. We’ve been conscious to respect that, and we respect different people are on various places in their journeys.”

If only NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had been able to articulate the journey that well.

“We’re not perfect but we’re learning every season,” Stevenson said.

One advantage in the NBL’s journey has been listening to LGBTQ community partners. Another advantage is having Isaac Humphries, a player in the league, come out as gay.

“Isaac’s experience has shown us that, broadly speaking, he’s been accepted and strongly supported through this,” Stevenson said. “We’re not naive that everyone is going to feel incredibly positive about that. There are challenges that happen throughout the seasons.

“But broadly speaking, we have confidence that the next player to come out will be supported.”

The NBL’s Pride Round extends from January 17-21.