NBA stars use their platforms to speak out against racial injustice

By: Jacob Shindel, Columnist 

When the NBA teams arrived in Orlando in early July, they were promised two things: basketball and a platform. This platform would allow for players to speak out against the racial injustices occurring within our country today, and has been for centuries. The NBA has followed through, implementing things which reflect that the players’ and teams’ message is heard. “Black Lives Matter” is painted on at least three courts, visible to every person who watches the games. In addition to this, players had the option to put a social justice phrase on the back of their jersey, with their name being shown at the bottom. 

Despite these attempts to raise awareness for these issues, it is still not enough. When the teams first arrived in Orlando, there was a lot of talk about Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman who was killed in the middle of the night by police in Louisville, Kentucky. The officers responsible for killing her were still walking free. In many press interviews, players would refuse to answer questions asked by the media, and instead talked about how there needs to be justice for Taylor, by charging the officers and holding them accountable.

Protests through interviews were most notably seen in Denver Nuggets player Jerami Grant, who answered every single question by reporters by saying that the officers who killed Taylor are still walking around free, and that there needs to be justice. While players still spoke out about the killing of unarmed black people by police, the social justice prevalence in the Orlando bubble seemed to decrease a bit. This was until the shooting of Jacob Blake.  

Minutes before tip-off of Game Five on the Milwaukee Bucks vs Orlando Magic first round series, the Bucks were nowhere to be seen. The team refused to take the court and play, due to frustration and anger followiing the shooting of Blake, which happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, less than an hour away from Milwaukee. The Magic did not accept the Bucks forfeit, which meant that the game would be postponed. Very soon after, more dominoes started to fall, as the rest of the games were canceled that day, and for the next two days as well. The Bucks were on the phone with  Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, asking what they could do to help. 

The platform that we are witnessing today in professional sports is one that has never been seen before. The three day players boycott in the NBA was only the second time in history that happened, with Bill Russell and some members of the Boston Celtics boycotting one game in 1961, to protest the same thing that is happening today, 59 years later, racial injustice. After numerous meetings between players, coaches and team owners, it was determined that the season would resume, because being inside the bubble did give the players a platform.

The Conference Finals are happening right now, so there are only four teams left in the Orlando bubble. This did not quiet the calls for justice. On Sept. 23, it was concluded that only one of the three officers were indicted. The officer that was charged was found guilty of endangerment to Taylor’s neighbors, for firing into their apartment. This caused an uproar, and protests soon followed in Louisville, and around the country. Many prominent NBA players spoke out against the ruling.

The Taylor family was paid $12 million in a settlement with the city of Louisville, but that isn’t good enough, according to Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro.

“It’s unfortunate. Money is not justice,” said Herro.

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who attended the University of Louisville, has been very vocal throughout the entire Orlando bubble process. The Jazz were eliminated in the first round, but Mitchell still used his platform to express his emotions about the ruling.

“I don’t have many words right now…. but all I can say is I’m praying for the city of Louisville right now!!!” tweeted Mitchell.

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone also expressed his frustration with the ruling, using his platform inside the bubble to do so.

“We have not gotten justice,” Malone said. “Hopefully that will change at some point.” 

While the NBA has done a lot to ensure that players and coaches have a voice and platform to promote positive social change, society as a whole must continue to fight for justice as well, one step at a time.

 

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