The Milwaukee Bucks took a stand last Wednesday that brought the NBA season to a screeching halt …for a whooping 24 hours.
Prior to tip-off of game 5 of their opening round playoff series against the Orlando Magic, the Bucks decided their quest for a championship seemed trivial, for about a day as Jacob Blake lay in the hospital fighting for his life after being shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin race masquerading as enforcement.
In that moment, it actually did not come as that much of a shock to me that a decision was made to postpone the games. When I listened to some interviews, and one from Toronto Raptors guard Fred Van Vleet really stuck out to me because the frustration he was expressing was palpable. I especially agreed with his take that slogans on the back of jerseys are not changing anything. I was critical of the NBA when they decided to put “Black Lives Matter” on the court as well the statements on the gamers because it seemed more like a symbolic action rather than a tangible, change-focused action. This was furthered bolstered by the fact, as it relates to the jerseys came from an approved and suggested list by the NBA and NBPA. According to the NBA, said the “messages are intended to help keep the focus on topics such as police brutality and systemic racism” , yet not one of these messages call for an ending to police brutality or abolishing anti-black racism. It is no coincidence that these phrases were left out.
This indifference to issues that adversely affect black people has long been on display if one chooses to simply see what is tacitly in front of them. For example, back in 2017, the league chose to remove its annual All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina due to its objection of the passing of HB2 or as it came to be known the “bathroom bill” , and only brought its midseason showcase back to the Queen City in 2019 when the bill was repealed. This was a tangible action that eventually brought about the desired outcome.
The Flint, Michigan water crisis has been ongoing for several years, largely affects black people and happened through intentional government malfeasance. To this point the NBA never threatened to remove nationally televised games or to cut the Pistons out of league revenue sharing until the citizens of a city in America in 2020 had drinkable water.
The blatant anti-black racism of former long-term Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling was well-known throughout the NBA and was only acted upon when he was widely exposed by the tapes released by his mistress. What was his penance? Was he unceremoniously drummed out of the league in disgrace? No, he was handed a $2 billion dollar golden parachute via the “forced”selling of the team to Microsoft billionaire Steve Balmer. As a final aside to this deplorable chapter in NBA history,I have to take the Clippers players to task. For if there was ever a time to boycott a game or games, this was it. A moment to take a stand was delivered to the team on a silver patter and what
It is far from happenstance that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has seemingly done a complete 180 on his stance on anthem protest/kneeling. While he, or any other person, is well within their rights to change their mind on a given issue, the timing is cause to raise an eyebrow. Back in 2017 when Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the anthem was a national discussion, it was Adam Silver who said that the NBA would not alter their rules to accommodate or facilitate anthem kneeling. Many people are ignorant to the fact that the NBA has a rule mandating standing for the national anthem, which states players and coaches must “stand in a dignified posture.” Comissioner Silver said, at that time, that he had no plans of changing said rule saying, “…. From my standpoint it’s been about respect – respect for the institution, respect for the fans, respect for the country that these players are playing in.”
However before the first bubble games in Orlando, now that it would be in line with the energy, meaning safe, Silver said that hewould not enforce the still-standing ( no pun intended) anthem rule.
“I respect our teams’ unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem,”
Like scores of other companies, the NBA seems to have experienced an sudden infusion of concern for the black community that suspiciously lined up with the tolerance of black people being shot down by race soldiers reaching a tipping point. Painting “Black Lives Matter” on the court and slapping some nebulous, lofty sounding slogans may give the appearance of being proactive toward the problem but is merely another symbolic gesture that has had about as much teeth to take a bite out of anti-black racism as when they took down the confederate flag in South Carolina.