Glenn Robinson III on life inside the NBA ‘bubble’ and fighting for social justice

For NBA players, life in the “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, isn’t easy. You’re away from your family and stuck in a hotel room with limited interaction outside of your team.

For Glenn Robinson III of the Philadelphia 76ers, what makes it harder is living without his two-year-old daughter, Ariana, who is at home and thinks bubbles are just something to chase, not a quarantined zone.

Having players reside at Disney World for the next few months is the NBA’s solution to resuming and finishing up a season amidst a global pandemic in a country which has struggled in the fight against Covid-19.

“When they’re young, they don’t really understand why we’re traveling or why dad is gone for periods of time. They just want to see you and they want to talk to you,” Robinson III told CNN’s Amanda Davies.

“It was a very tough decision for me, leaving her, knowing that I would be gone for three or four months. So that definitely weighed on me heavy but, at the end of the day, she’s the reason why I do everything.”

Robinson III uses his platform to raise awareness through his aptly named ARI Foundation. The son of a former No.1 overall NBA draft pick by the same name, Robinson III started his foundation to empower other fathers to create a lasting legacy for their children.

“I wanted to create something. I’m a natural giver. I know that my purpose is to help the masses and that’s why I’m a professional athlete and basketball player,” said Robinson III.

“It’s to help others in a way that they might not have had that chance and leaving a legacy for my daughter where she’ll grab this foundation and be able to take off with it whenever she wants.”

Life-long lessons

During the season, Robinson III has been using his foundation to give back to a variety of organizations in his hometown of Gary, Indiana, a city which has long had one of the highest murder rates in America.

Growing up in Gary, Robinson III learned that the color of his skin could have a direct impact on how he was treated by others.

“It’s the issue that’s never going to go away. It’s the issue to where my mom taught me how to hold my hands on a steering wheel when you get pulled over,” he said.

“That’s been passed down generation to generation by every Black family that I know. So, I will naturally have to teach my daughter those things.”

Robinson III and his teammates are using their platforms to enact change, so that maybe one day his daughter won’t have to teach her children the same lessons.

During the opening games of the NBA restart, players, coaches and staff chose to take a knee during the National Anthem to help bring attention to social injustice, a move that had US President Donald Trump announce that it would cause him to “turn off the game.”

In an interview with Fox last week, Trump said it was “not acceptable” for athletes to take a knee, repeating his claim that no one, apart from possibly Abraham Lincoln, had done more to help the Black community.

LeBron James spoke out, saying: “I really don’t think the basketball community are sad about losing his viewership.”

Robinson III agreed with James. “I don’t think we will [miss him]. I’m not losing sleep over it,” he said.

“I definitely think that the Black community, the basketball community, everyone who is watching us on TV and supporting us … we’re not mad about losing that viewership. I completely agreed with him [LeBron].”

When asked if he felt the NBA was doing enough to stand up for social issues, Robinson III said the league was — but added that more could always be done.

“For me, it’s about actions. It’s not about words. It’s not about a post. It’s about actions. What are you doing at the end of the day to do your part on these issues?” he asked.

“I feel like our leadership, our players association and the way that we understand our role in this sport as players is so important to know we’re not just a piece. And this relates back to everything that we’re talking about, about social injustice, about everything that’s going on in the world right now; we’re not just basketball players at the end of the day.

“We’re a focal point of how they bring in revenue, and understanding that and making our situation better for the ones who come after us, that’s what I was taught by my veterans. And I think that that’s what LeBron, that’s what Chris Paul, are doing with this situation.”

Robinson III added: “We’ll never get an opportunity like this again to show how strongly we feel about certain situations and I think we shouldn’t back down now.”