Before they came to Orlando, many NBA players and coaches did some soul-searching and asked the question, “should we do this right now? Is this a distraction that will mute the Black Lives Matter movement?” They have tried to keep the movement fresh and in the forefront while in the bubble — wearing Black Lives Matters T-shirts before and after games, kneeling during the national anthem, speaking about justice for Breonna Taylor and others during interviews.
Then this week, Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back at point-blank range, in front of his three children, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and there is a feeling of frustration among players that nothing is changing.
“Coming down here, making the choice to play was not supposed to be in vain but it’s starting to feel like everything we’re doing is just going through the motions and nothing’s really changing,” Toronto’s Fred VanVleet said (via the Associated Press), “and here we are again with another unfortunate incident.”
Doc Rivers’ emotional postgame speech after the Clippers’ win Tuesday resonated with a lot of players.
“What stands out to me is just watching the Republican convention, viewing this fear. All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Doc Rivers said. “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear.
“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad.
“Like, I should just be a coach. I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better. But we got to demand better. It’s funny, we protest. They send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits. They go up to Michigan with guns. They’re spitting on cops. Nothing happens. The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.
“I didn’t want to talk about it before the game because it’s so hard, like, to just keep watching it. That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged. How dare the Republicans talk about fear. We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It’s just ridiculous. It just keeps going. There’s no charges. Breonna Taylor, no charges, nothing. All we’re asking is you live up to the Constitution. That’s all we’re asking for everybody, for everyone.”
The Bucks’ George Hill wondered if the players should continue playing or boycott games, and he isn’t the only player or coach asking that question. Doc Rivers has asked it. Jaylen Brown, who was very active in protests and the BLM movement before coming to Orlando, says the players and league need to find a way not to let the message of social justice get washed out in the playoffs.
“I do think the NBA has done a great job – initially – to kind of give us the platform to speak on certain things and things like that, but I do kind of do feel like it is kind of lessened as the playoffs have gotten started,” Brown said, via the Associated Press.
“Things have kind of diminished. I’m curious to see in what creative ways that people put their minds together to continue to push these conversations and make me feel more comfortable about playing basketball in the middle of like a lot of things that are going on.”