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The Bleak Commercial Politics of ‘Space Jam’

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Over the past decade, the NBA has become the world’s most aggressively activist major sports organization. Its players have stumped for voting access, put the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on NBA courts, and nearly boycotted last year’s playoffs en masse amid the protests over the murder of George Floyd. It has been a dramatic and socially significant evolution from the days of Jordan, the famously apolitical uber-jock who once quipped that “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

So to watch James in 2021, the league’s standard-bearer both as a player and political activist, traipse through the sealed-off virtual landscape of “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” it’s impossible to think of anything but what the league and its players aren’t saying. The film is carefully neutered to appeal to an apolitical global cinematic marketplace dominated by China. You spend its 115 minutes not recalling the lightweight delights of the 1990s, but of the moment…

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