In the wake of Jacob Blake, a black man, being shot multiple times by police officers, NBA players refused to participate in games today as a sign of protest against police brutality and a symbol of solidarity in defense of Black Lives. According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, that’s just the beginning. Players are demanding action from their ownerships, not platitudes, hardwood wordmarks, IG posts, and marketing. If you don’t think they’re serious, they need to shut up and dribble, or this is just a bluff for publicity, LeBron James has a message for you. He’s already decided. He’s out.
Sources: Every team besides Lakers and Clippers voted to continue playing. LeBron James said in meeting he want owners to be more involved/take action.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
Sources: Miami's Udonis Haslem spoke and essentially told everyone in room that -- without Lakers and Clippers, how will season continue?— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
LeBron James walked out. Rest of Lakers and Clippers exited behind him.
In meeting, players are demanding an action plan, sources told @SInow. They want to see something from NBA owners. Meeting has been led by Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala, though many other players are speaking.— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) August 27, 2020
Players spoke passionately about voting and police reform, per sources. There's a sense from some that if owners don't come up with something that makes them believe staying will help move these important issues forward, this season is done.— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) August 27, 2020
This subject is already personal to most players around the league. Many have told their stories of being racially profiled with police officers growing up. Donovan Mitchell shared one such example in The Athletic at the beginning of August.
“The officer is questioning us about what we’re doing, and where we’re going, and it felt like there was going to be a problem, and then he’s looking at our clothes… He literally says, ‘The only reason why I’m letting you go is because I love your coach.’ We were all wearing Louisville gear,” Mitchell writes.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, many have had terrible experiences with Wisconsin police as Andy Larsen outlines below.
Bucks player Sterling Brown had a knee to his neck and was punched by Milwaukee PD for parking incorrectly.— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) August 26, 2020
Former Buck John Henson had the cops called on him while shopping for jewelry, just for being black.
This is personal to them.
Lebron isn’t the only one. The Lakers, Clippers, Raptors, and Bucks are among the strongest teams advocating for shutting down the season. That’s the top two seeds in the West and the top two seeds in the East.
“Is it going to fix things? We don’t know,” Rudy Gobert told reporters a few hours ago. “But, I think the people that have the power to change those things need to feel uncomfortable.”
Rudy Gobert knows that many are using the NBA to escape during this difficult time. Every day people are battling decisions of their kids’ safety as they return to school, unemployment, racial inequality, and the uncertainty of an election.
“Maybe they just want us to give them the little entertainment, the little comfort they need,” Gobert said weighing the balance of players being an escape and also using their platform for good. “But at the same time, people got to understand that we’re all human beings.”
There’s a growing sentiment among players in the Bubble that the three games scheduled for tomorrow will not be played. That would include Utah’s game against the Denver Nuggets. But that’s just the beginning.
When the NBA Bubble was being pitched, Kyrie Irving spoke passionately against the concept of the NBA Bubble because of the turmoil that was raging outside. The Black Lives Matter was able to be seen and have a bigger voice because the world had shut down. It wasn’t possible to ignore the problems anymore without the cacophony of new content, sports, activities, and travel. It would be impossible for NBA players to ignore that any contribution to that content engine drowns out the social media posts that would have gone viral with highlights of their dunks, crossovers, blocks, and game winners.
As of this moment, LeBron James followed by the Los Angeles Clippers then the Los Angeles Clippers have said they’re not playing. Players are still meeting and the rest of teams voted to still play. How do the playoffs resume with the two top seeds in the West gone? We do not know. We do know there will be additional actions taken by the players in response to these shootings in the minutes, hours, and days that follow. If the NBA Playoffs are to resume in any capacity, however, it will require tangible and effective action from the owners in support of racial justice and police reform.
Those actions will be uncomfortable. It will draw a lot of controversy from many who believe NBA players are overstepping their bounds. Those actions could take the form of players demanding an owner distance themselves—financially and politically—from causes that undermine racial equality. It may be players demanding an owner remove a company from their portfolio that has aided in the disenfranchisement of minorities. It may be owners moving funds to permanently establish programs that fight police brutality. It may in some cases mean direct opposition with an owner who refuses to cede their role in perpetuating what players see as the status quo.
If the NBA season is indeed over, let it be known the NBA Bubble was not burst by a virus, but by seven shots in Wisconsin.