First it was the Milwaukee Bucks. The team, who’s home is just 40 miles away from Kenosha — where police officers fired seven rounds into Jacob Blake’s back, decided to boycott its game against the Orlando Magic. Then, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder followed suit. The NBA announced it would postpone Wednesday’s playoff games.
The NBA playoffs are in jeopardy. And I’m fine with that. Players plan on meeting Thursday, as will the league’s Board of Governors. Players want action and in all likeliness, it looks as if teams could strike against the league and boycott games. We shouldn’t fault them for that.
Many have criticized the league’s take on social justice. Some felt like that league’s decision to include pro-Black Lives Matter messages on jerseys was a bad business decision. Others felt like it was hypocritical, especially in light of the league’s issues supporting Hong Kong.
But this is actual action. This isn’t just some optics-saving move the league’s making nor is it just putting a message on your back. This is the collective power of men fed up with systemic injustice. It’s concrete and it’s loud. We need to hear them.
A lot of people would argue that sports are a distraction for real life, but the thing is, these players play in the real world. Our social injustices are very much theirs. After all, it’s only been 2.5 years since Milwaukee officers tased Bucks’ guard Sterling Brown. It’s been five years since NYPD officers broke Thabo Sefolosha’s leg.
Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle was asked about his thoughts on the MLB bringing baseball back during the pandemic. “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society,” he said. He’s right. And as a society, we don’t deserve sports.
We don’t deserve sports until we have conversations on police brutality. That’s at the very least. If we really wanted to earn sports back, we would have conversations about systemic racism and institutions hurting minorities. We’d look for compassion in our neighbors as well as support for our marginalized communities. We wouldn’t hold a teenager who killed two people and got to go home in reverence.
Not getting to watching LeBron dominate the West or Giannis’s journey to the NBA Finals hurts. But continuing a pattern of social injustice hurts even more. If players want to send a message, let them. It wouldn’t hurt to listen.
BANNER: Keith Allison//Flickr