Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
In recent years, and even months, we have seen an increase in the number of Black men and women being senselessly murdered or abused by police — most recently being George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake.
There have been many more; too many in fact.
Recently, with the shooting of Jacob Blake, the entire NBA Restart decided to take a stand for equal rights and justice. On Aug. 26, an uproar came from the NBA bubble when word broke that the Milwaukee Bucks would not come out to play in protest of the unjust shooting of Blake. Following suit were the rest of the NBA teams in the bubble as well as some baseball games being postponed and NFL practices being cancelled.
This statement by NBA players sparked many emotions amongst fans. Some in favor and cheering on while others were disgruntled. Other fans decided they did not care and wanted games to resume.
However, this was not the first time fans were witnessing a political movement from athletes.
In 2012, the Miami Heat wore hoodies to show their support for the late Trayvon Martin. NBA stars wore shirts that said “I can’t breathe,” to show their stance on the Eric Garner arrest in 2014. However, this time the political message was much, much louder than ever before.
Without the athletes playing games, they showed just how powerful they were and how they can control a huge financial market. Without NBA games, a lot of people lose out.
This protest brought much attention, not just to the athletes, but to the issues at hand as well. They had small comments on what was going on, but rarely spoke out during the time of the protest. It made people wonder if there was going to be another NBA game.
Well going back and learning the history of Black men and women in America, there is a great disadvantage that they face and more recently it has been shown in the form of police brutality. These players protested to bring awareness to something many people fail to realize happens too often; many spoke out about experiences they have personally gone through.
Lebron James personally spoke out when he saw the video of 10-year-old Elijah Pierre hiding behind a car as police drove down the street because he feared for his life. James shared that he could relate because, as a kid, he experienced that grewing up in the projects in Ohio — fearing for his life whenever police were around and not feeling the safety he was supposed to feel.
Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith spoke out about being stopped by police and how they did not listen to him or his concerns. He said the police didn’t care that his young daughter was in the back seat; they treated him disrespectfully until they realized who he was.
The short stories of these influential people help show why these NBA players protested. They are tired of Black children, men and women fearing for their lives whenever a police officer is near. Many share stories that they warn their children about what to do and what not to do when in an encounter with police officers.
Recently, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he does not have to worry about those conversations with his children because they are white. He acknowledged it is not fair and is an injustice to Black men and women, which is why he stood firmly with his teammate of all colors and backgrounds.
This is something that can not be fought alone and it is important that people of all colors and races acknowledge the injustices going on so we can move forward as a society towards a safer community and a safer America.
That brings us to another point — NBA players wanted to make sure their voices were heard about going out to vote. We all have the power to help make the change we want and that starts at the polling locations.
The athletes agreed to continue the season as long as stadiums would be turned into voting locations to make it easier for people to come out and vote, also for civic engagement to be enforced throughout the NBA, and there was a focus on meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
While many critics of the players say that these professional athletes make too much money to be worried, or should leave politics out of sports, we must remember that these athletes are human beings and they feel and hurt the same way all human beings do.
As Doc Rivers, coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, cried out in a statement:
“We continue to love America, but America doesn’t love us back.”