By Cameron Buford, whatsgoodinsports.com
Last week was a monumental week for the NBA. The Jacob Blake shooting incident, where he was shot 7 times in the back by Kenosha, Wisconsin Police Department has reverberated across the professional sports landscape. This situation prompted the Milwaukee Bucks to boycott their NBA Playoff Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. This incident also caught the attention of their peers in the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and the NFL.
While the NBA has been combating COVID-19 in their return to play on Orlando, they also wanted to bring attention to the social injustices, police brutality, and racial discrimination. Not only did the NBA paint Blacks Lives Matter on each of the floors in the NBA bubble, but they also partnered with the players to print various messages on the back of their uniforms. However, the players didn’t feel this was enough using the recent shooting in Milwaukee.
A few short months ago, the murder of George Floyd raised some eyebrows in the Black Community. Then this recent shooting of Jacob Blake tugged on the heartstrings of the country. Doc Rivers, Head Coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, was one of those deeply touched by this incident and expressed his pain in his Game 5 Post-Game press conference after their win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Doc’s impassioned press conference touched most of those who listened as he stated, “As far as the other situation, it’s just so sad. 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. 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 [tearing up].”
“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.”
“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 the talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It’s just ridiculous. It just keeps going. There are no charges. Breonna Taylor, no charges, nothing. All we’re asking is [for] you live up to the Constitution. That’s all we’re asking for everybody, for everyone.”
Once the Bucks boycotted their game against the Orlando Magic, all games in Orlando were subsequently postponed. Many players have spoken about the challenges the bubble has presented in addition to not allowing them to be in their respective markets protesting with their community. The players were ultimately able to unite with the NBAPA President Michelle Roberts along with select Coaches and Team Governors to agree on some specific actions item on request of the players.
Doc Rivers had this message on change for the players, “Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Like I’ve always said — don’t give in to something that hasn’t happened. Keep pushing, keep working.” As the players collectively challenged their league Governors, these are the negotiated actions items that the NBA players were able to agree upon before they returned to play;
1) The immediate establishment of a social justice coalition with representatives from the players, coaches, and owners. The coalition will focus on “a broad range of issues” including police and criminal justice reform.
2) Every arena that is owned and operated by the team will work with local election officials to convert the facility into a polling place for the upcoming 2020 election. If the deadline to do that has passed, the team will work with officials to find a different use for the building to support the 2020 election.
3) Advertising spots during each playoff game will be dedicated to increasing civic engagement and access to voting.
Later Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers spoke on the benefit of how the NBA players are managing in the Bubble and what a couple of days off meant, “the key to this thing is that I think we all needed to take a breath. We needed a moment to breathe. It’s not lost on me that George Floyd didn’t get that moment. But we did. And we took it. And the players took it, and they got to refocus on the things that they wanted to focus on outside of their jobs.” Rivers continued to say about his team in the NBA Bubble, “we have to really monitor that better, and I’m the first to say I knew it was hard, but I didn’t see the impact. We have to do better there.”
Having experienced and veteran minds to lean on is a tremendous benefit to the leadership of the NBA. This no doubt leads to their incredible partnership between players and governors which is unrivaled in team sports. Kindly share your thoughts on this NBA partnership and the bubble they’ve created to compete their season amidst the pandemic and social unrest? By reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or forward your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.