As Jacob Blake was added to the long list of blacks law enforcement brutalized, it became clear to NBA players that the Florida bubble’s previous social justice calls were not enough.
James Lebron @Roi James
FUCK THIS MAN !!!! WE CALL FOR CHANGE. SICK OF THIS
Wednesday afternoon kicked off what will become one of the most important days in athlete activism history as Milwaukee Bucks players refuse to leave the locker room to speak for Game 5 of their first round series against the Orlando Magic. The decision was not to play the game – a playoff game with real stakes for the Eastern Conference No.1 seed. Why? Another act of police violence against a black person, this time in his own backyard in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Now the season is in serious jeopardy. Shams Charania from The Athletic and Stadium reported that the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers voted not to play the remainder of the playoffs while the remaining 11 teams wanted to continue, although ESPN Adrian Wojnarowski noted that this was more of a poll than a final vote.
Once again, NBA players have turned the mirror on America. Thursday’s emergency Governing Council meeting will show whether the NBA’s true power brokers see what players see: ugliness that cannot be avoided and an ever-greater need for change.
NBA players are potentially putting millions of dollars at stake if the season does not resume. Some of the biggest stars in the league can afford to take that risk; some in the lower ranks cannot. Still, it’s a risk they may all have to take as the stakes are too high for the future of the country – and for their humanity as predominantly black men.
Shortly after the Bucks strike, players from the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder followed suit. The NBA was quick to announce that Wednesday’s three games will be postponed, which isn’t entirely accurate. It was a player-driven decision that caught the league office off guard.
Before the night is over, the WNBA, star du tennis Naomi Osaka and several baseball teams (including the Milwaukee Brewers) had joined what amounted to a general strike in professional sport.
But come back to the beginning of the week when the players started to take public positions. Players including the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and the Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam expressed regret for agreeing to restart the season in the first place.
The kind of sweeping thinking and admirable but unrealistic propositions you might expect from NBA Twitter fringes were coming from the gamers.
Soon we saw reports that Raptors players were consider not playing The first game of their second-round playoff series, set to begin on Thursday.
It is too early to say if the strike will end the season or if the games will resume in a few days. No actor has the illusion that walking away alone will overturn America’s centuries-old legacy of institutionalized racism.
But the players tried every other possibility to create the change that was desperately needed, and nothing else worked. So they are making their biggest statement yet, one that will be impossible to ignore and that will be written in the history books.
Wednesday’s events were the logical continuation of a reboot that had deeply uncertain players, both due to security concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and whether the return to play after the protests had left them more prevalent for civil rights in American history would hurt more important issues.
The NBA and NBPA have finally agreed to certain conditions for players to return to work and for the league to recoup some of the revenue that has been decimated by the pandemic. Some of the social justice initiatives were at the surface level – painting “Black Lives Matter” on all three courts at Disney’s Wide World of Sports and the list of slogans players were allowed to place on the backs of their jerseys.
Others were more significant, like the league and its 30 teams recently $ 300 million commitment to support the economic empowerment of black communities.
The NBA has also agreed not to enforce its long-standing rule requiring players to show up for the national anthem, and the early days of the recovery saw high-profile kneeling demonstrations from the teams that allowed all of the world to feel good to participate in the recovery.
The players have done their best to work within these parameters and make changes.
Some players, including Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers and Jerami Grant of the Denver Nuggets, have made entire media Zoom calls to answer only questions about Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old black woman killed by police officers in Louisville in March.
Most of the players chose a tagline from the NBA roster, and many used their media time to explain their choices.
They have spoken out on social media, both on specific victims of police brutality (Taylor, George Floyd, Elijah McClain and now Blake, among far too many) and on larger societal issues that need to be addressed. Almost every day, a player or coach made a passionate call for change which was reported, tweeted and shared on social media.
Launderer report @Report of the launderer
“It’s amazing to me why we continue to love this country and this country doesn’t love us back. … If you watch this video, you don’t have to be black to be outraged. You must be American and outraged. Doc gave a powerful speech on the shooting of Jacob Blake by the police https://t.co/RzUPC6Fzfh
Immediately after Floyd’s murder on May 25 in Minneapolis and the days of intensified protests around the world that followed, it briefly felt like there was real momentum for meaningful societal change on these issues.
It was at this time that the terms of the takeover were being negotiated between the league and the players’ union. At the time, put slogans on the jerseys and partnership with some black-owned businesses seemed like a great way to stay focused on the good stuff while giving fans the entertainment they’ve craved since the NBA’s initial shutdown on March 11 and helping the league recoup some of the money it had. lost.
But as the gruesome but all too familiar video of Blake being shot in front of his children is laid bare, we’re no closer to the real solutions than we were in the first week of June. So NBA players decided to put their money where it was. All this talk about “using their platforms to create change” is not enough.
So they went out.
It’s important to remember that this has almost happened once before. Less than three months into Adam Silver’s tenure as NBA commissioner, a playoff strike was nearly a reality. The Clippers and Golden State Warriors players discussed the absence of Game 4 of their 2014 first-round series after TMZ released an audio recording racist comments from then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling. A big part of the reason they finally played this game was because they trusted Silver to back them up.
He came for them, issuing a lifetime ban on the widely hated sterling. It was not only the right thing to do, but it was also a politically wise decision for the new commissioner. This has earned him enormous goodwill with the players, who have come to see themselves as league partners rather than opponents of Silver’s predecessor David Stern. It has also allowed the NBA to position itself as America’s most progressive men’s sports league, which is both true and an extremely low bar to be crossed when the competition is NFL and Major League Baseball.
But contrary to what some bad-faith actors like to conjure up when discussing NBA ratings, league politics is very much in between. The rule of showing up for the anthem is still in his books when there is no reason why. Silver and the league office also mismanaged the fallout from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s October tweet in favor of Hong Kong under pressure to keep their very lucrative. business interests in China.
Their solutions to gamers’ concerns about the emphasis on social justice in the bubble – slogans on jerseys and courts – were no less secure or bundled than what is expected of a society of a billion dollars.
Whether the season the finishes are in the air. What is clear is that on the side of the players, the desire to fight for a better life for themselves, their children and black people across the country is not just words. They are ready to risk everything.
Do owners care enough about their short-term money and the long-term legacy of the league to listen to them?
Sean Highkin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. He is currently based in Portland. His work has been honored by the Pro Basketball Writers’ Association. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and in the B / R app.