I want to open both from the “I perspective” and with the acknowledgment that: this is not a typical “Belly Up” type of piece. Belly Up is a fun site that many of us check after work, after that morning meeting, or first thing in the morning when we’re delaying getting started on work. It’s a place to find fun, interesting sports news, sports talk, or sports adjacent content that helps distract us from whatever else is going on because, well, sports are the great escape. Sports can be entirely captivating for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours, they can seemingly mean everything and nothing at the same time. Sports have an inherent lightheartedness because they’re silly games, but they have an inherent seriousness because they’re religiously bonding. A sport I really enjoy is basketball. Specifically, the NBA brand of basketball. I’ve been a fan of the NBA for a long, long time. I’m not sure I’ve ever been a more proud fan as I was this week.
But this is your warning… If you’d like to press the “back” or “x” button along the top of the window… do it. Because on August 26th, four years to the day that Colin Kaepernick abstained from the national anthem to bring up a conversation, the NBA made sure we could not escape it.
Specifically, the day began with the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics talking about doing it. Then, in the build-up to the Orlando Magic vs. Milwaukee Bucks game, the talk was all about if they’d do it. And by the end of the day, all six NBA basketball teams slated to play had done it, every WNBA team slated to play had done it, and nearly a dozen baseball teams as well:
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable.”— ABC News (@ABC) August 27, 2020
Sterling Brown and George Hill read a prepared statement from Milwaukee Bucks players after they decided to boycott playoff game to protest shooting of Jacob Blake. https://t.co/azTJO3IxPt pic.twitter.com/6yTTmz3Efo
Pro sports went on strike as a form of protest in reaction to the attempted murder of Jacob Blake at the hands of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police department last Sunday.
The Bucks never came out of the locker room ahead of their Game 6 contest with the Orlando Magic. The Magic, in turn, retreated to their locker room. Moments later, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook were seen in the hallway. Tensions on social media and sports media were high. Boycott? Walk-out? Quit? What was happening? Where were the players? Shortly, all players had left the arena… except the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks were still in their locker room, where they were hours earlier. Not on the floor. Not watching TV in their hotel rooms. They were making a statement, literally. Inside of the locker room, the Milwaukee Bucks spoke with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. They wrote out an explanation and had George Hill and Sterling Brown read it to the media.
Kenosha, WI, is just 33 miles from Milwaukee. Brown, who wore a tee-shirt that read “BLACK ALL THE TIME” while reading the statement, is a victim of police brutality and wrote about it for the Player’s Tribune earlier this summer. NBA Center John Henson, while playing for Milwaukee, was also the victim of racial profiling in a local jeweler. The attempted murder of Blake hit close to home for NBA Players and much of the country alike, but it was literally close to home for the Bucks.
Players met late the night of the 26th to discuss the reality of the strike, and how far it would go. The NBA Board of Governors quickly rushed to schedule a meeting the following morning. Reports indicate LeBron James and the Lakers, as well as the Clippers, voted to end the season. The meeting will reconvene at the same time as the Board of Governors meeting, Thursday. No official decision was reached by the end of Wednesday night, but reporting indicated that at least the next day’s games were in trouble (and they were, they were cancelled the next morning).
But trouble is exactly the point of the strike. In the words of the late civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis, to make progress you have to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
Good trouble will rub the twitter trolls the wrong way. The first-name-followed-by-a-string-of-random-numbers bot army comes after those who cause good trouble. The selfie-with-sunglasses-in-car-profile-picture crew is livid about those who cause good trouble. But if good & necessary trouble can be made by some not playing basketball, then maybe we don’t need to be watching basketball. Good trouble is what makes a Wednesday night in August, amidst a pandemic-ridden season in a weird NBA bubble, a truly historic night for a movement much bigger than basketball.
Black Lives Matter movements have erupted in the last six months. While the movement itself has been around closer to a decade, the last six months the “enough is enough” sentiment has caught blaze, sometimes with literal flames. In the days following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, nightly protesting replaced the postponed spotting events on our televisions.
In the wake of the attempted murder of Jacob Blake, the NBA players have put a timeout on playing for us to again focus on the much more important human rights issues in our country. As you’re reading this, Blake is paralyzed, fighting for his life, and handcuffed to his hospital bed.
Strikes usually lead to tangible demands, but this is an interesting work stoppage. The NBA is a big-money business run by 30 corporations in roughly 28 markets across the country. Policing, the issue at hand, is a local issue. That adds complexity to the demands of the players striking and demonstrating.
The demands of the players are going to seem out there because it’s going to take something out there to make any real change. The Bucks may demand their owner, Wes Edens, invest a large chunk of the billion dollars he’s worth in police reform in their greater Milwaukee market. LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard may demand that Jeanie Buss and Steve Balmer invest in movements to reformat, restructure, and rebuild the LAPD in a new light.
They say, “we won’t play until the cities of Kenosha, Louisville, and Minneapolis, arrest the cops that shot Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, and killed George Floyd.” Tangibly, the hope would be that the pressure from the billion-dollar industry is enough to start the wheels of change. But they haven’t, yet. And they may not. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the nation talking. They’ve said what they are trying to say, for what feels like the millionth or billionth time, by taking their bodies off of the floor. NBA players weren’t running up and down, dunking, shooting, passing, or doing anything to distract from the one clear message left on the bare floor behind them.
I, as a white man, cringe and get squeamish at the videos of police murdering black civilians that regularly flood social media timelines. They hurt. The names that have become hashtags are getting to be too many to count. They, too, hurt. And it all hurts each and every time they hit me. But that squeamishness, that pain, and the disbelief that this continues to happen for me is nothing compared to the pain it causes black people in this country. I see a sad and disturbing video, they see a loved one, a relatable story, or a mirror.
So with all of that said, I’m going to stop talking. It’s time to listen to those feeling the most pain, not talk over them. You’re all on this site and thus, presumably, a sports fan, so below are the words of people in sports we need to listen to while the players are taking a timeout.
(please note, this is simply a portion of the powerful messages this week. There have been countless voices from our leaders at the forefront for the entirety of the last six months)
“I’ma challenge all my NBA guys … let’s try to get our entire teams registered to vote.”— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 24, 2020
CP3 had a message after the Thunder win ✊ pic.twitter.com/faBGl14XNn
Chris Webber holds back tears while speaking about NBA players’ strike after the police shooting of Jacob Blake pic.twitter.com/wowdpF9adg— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 26, 2020
Kenny Smith walks off the set of Inside the NBA in solidarity with the players. pic.twitter.com/7IBmNrwnLA— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) August 26, 2020
Breaking down a historical day in the NBA on @NBAonTNT as players opt to boycott playoffs games to reprioritize spotlight on racial injustices.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 27, 2020
Full six-min version: https://t.co/5x6FHZyBdI pic.twitter.com/LR8d72Ck0x
“The short term is to get people to stop killing folks! That’s the short-term goal. Stop shooting me!”@realmikewilbon on what NBA players hope to achieve by boycotting games pic.twitter.com/hQIXEBjDTa— PTI (@PTI) August 26, 2020
“Having two boys of my own and me being an African-American in America and to see what continues to happen with police brutality towards my kind … it’s very troubling.” – @KingJames pic.twitter.com/haC4ubLdqg— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 27, 2020
today was a day that I will never forget.— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) August 27, 2020
the NBA news broke as we started our show.
we are living through history and we all must do our part. pic.twitter.com/mGhfgEwj8P
“It’s disgusting. … I just want this s— to stop.”— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 26, 2020
Donovan Mitchell spoke about Jacob Blake and how he believes NBA players need to continue fighting for change. pic.twitter.com/eYW7upUNR6
Bucks guard George Hill speaks strongly about the cop shooting of African-American Jacob Blake in Milwaukee and questioned whether NBA teams should have come to the “bubble” in the midst of the social justice movement. pic.twitter.com/Z12YtI5Iep— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) August 24, 2020
If you can watch, cheer, celebrate and share in their pain on the court, you should share in their pain off the court and show empathy for them if you value them as human beings acknowledge that they are hurting! Ask why? They are more than entertainment!— J.B. Bickerstaff (@jbbickerstaff_) August 26, 2020
I’m moved by all the @NBA players for standing up for what is right. To my man @TheJetOnTNT I would like to say Thank you for what you did to show your support for the players. I am so proud of you. Keep getting in good trouble. @NBAonTNT @ESPNNBA @espn #NBAPlayoffs ✊🏿— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) August 26, 2020
WE DEMAND JUSTICE!!!— Jamal Murray (@BeMore27) August 26, 2020
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020
After games were boycotted Wednesday night, the entire @wnba bubble organized and participated in a candlelight vigil. People were encouraged to speak their heart. They are in this together. pic.twitter.com/4MZj64dBlf— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) August 27, 2020
The NBRA stands in solidarity with our players’ decision to boycott tonight’s games in protest of the continued unjustified killing of black men and women by law enforcement. There are more important issues in our country than basketball and we hope this will inspire change.— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) August 26, 2020
The NBA Coaches support our players 100%. The restart happened largely because of the platform it provided. The baseless shootings of Jacob Blake and other black men and women by law enforcement underscores the need for action. Not after the playoffs, not in the future, but now.— NBA Coaches Assoc. (@NBA_Coaches) August 27, 2020
“Once Mookie said he wasn’t going to play, that really started our conversation as a team on what we could do to support that.” @mookiebetts, Dave Roberts, @ClaytonKersh22 & @kenleyjansen74 share their thoughts on the #Dodgers decision not to play tonight. pic.twitter.com/WUQoorsdXR— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) August 27, 2020
For those of you who still don’t get it or those who have friends/family who don’t, maybe this @SportsCenter clip from last night will help. Shout out to @TheRealSmith2_ for dropping that raw emotion! ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/gL9yxFm0hq— Michael Eaves (@michaeleaves) August 27, 2020
The Lions canceled practice Tuesday to demonstrate for racial equality in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. A look at yesterday’s events and why it was important to the team to take a stand: pic.twitter.com/HJ77Ci3yTo— Tori Petry (@sportstori) August 26, 2020
Multiple NFL teams are not practicing today in the wake of Wednesday’s NBA playoff strike.https://t.co/KzRMGxZeIF— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) August 27, 2020
Proud of our players! @Nba— DWade (@DwyaneWade) August 26, 2020
Sources: The Lakers and Clippers have voted to boycott the NBA season. Most other teams voted to continue. LeBron James has exited the meeting.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
Troy Vincent, NFL Executive VP of Operations, spoke candidly about the boycotts across professional sports yesterday.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 27, 2020
Powerful moment on "Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin"
Thank you @DocRivers for your words of wisdom and keeping this at the forefront. Proud to see the men in the bubble using their voices to try to enact real change! @NBAonTNT thank you for talking from your heart and trying to educate others by giving your experiences @NBA— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) August 26, 2020
If reading this, or listening to these people, made you wonder what you can do (aside from being registered to vote and voting in your local, state, and the national elections on November 3rd) and you have the means, please donate to the organizations below