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The N.B.A. Player Who Might See His Mom at Union Meetings

By: Kyle Xu

The National Basketball Players Association is the union for N.B.A. players, a group of adult millionaires, most of whose mothers don’t attend unit meetings.

But the mother of Jaren Jackson Jr., Terri Jackson, is no ordinary N.B.A. mom. In fact, she is the executive director for the W.N.B.A. players’ union and was invited to the N.B.A. players’ union’s winter meeting. Her son, Jaren Jackson Jr., of the Memphis Grizzlies, was nominated to be one of the union’s vice presidents at that meeting.

Jaren Jackson Jr. gave a short speech, telling his teammates that he wanted to be able to connect with the older players as one of the younger ones. He said that he felt the responsibility. Obviously, Terri Jackson wanted to cheer loudly for her son, but she knew better. She showed great restraint. She decided not to embarrass her 23-year-old son. But she at least raised her arms in celebration.

“If you love the game, that’s what you’re really doing it for,” said Jackson Jr. “I want kids growing up, whether it’s my kids or other people’s kids, when they grow up and they want to play in the league, they’re going to have a good foundation.”

By being part of the players’ union, Jackson Jr. is continuing a family legacy. Both his parents were involved in players’ unions before.

Jackson Jr.’s mom, Terri Jackson, had a father who spoke for better pay for teachers at a school board meeting as a lawyer. “When I think about getting to be the executive director for the W players, I just, you know, I think a little bit: ‘Wow. You know, my dad would be so proud of this’ – or he is so proud,” said Terri Jackson. “And that his grandson is a union rep? That’s amazing.”

She and Jaren Sr. went to college together at Georgetown University, where she also taught classes about women in sports. In 2012, Terri began working for the N.C.A.A. in Indiana and became the organization’s director of law, policy, and governance. Soon, she became the executive director of the W.N.B.P.A. These careers meant that their son would have to adapt and move more often than usual. The Jacksons wanted Jaren Jr. to be comfortable in front of people he didn’t know.

Jaren Sr. also boasted a rich history. While Jaren Jr. was born, his father had been going through the N.B.A. lockout in 1999 as a player for the San Antonio Spurs. Sometimes he would fly to New York to attend meetings with famous players. “This was a tough time for me,” said Jaren Sr. “I wasn’t sure about my future and I sat there and listened to these guys, you know, drop F-bombs all over the place and talk about these players getting paid and owners making this money.”

All across his team, Jaren Jr. had familiar faces. In his parents, he has two experienced players’ union veterans. But now, Jr. tends to be more family focused.


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