The NBA slammed its collective foot on the pause button on Wednesday, with all six teams on the playoff schedule opting out after players and coaches courageously concluded this was not the day to play.
Not when events in America have their coaches crying, their players fuming and anyone with a heart aching.
Not when racial tensions, already high, are boiling over once again after another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, is laying in a hospital, paralyzed, after being shot in the back seven times by white police officers in Kenosha, Wis.
Not when we’re still getting tragic reminders that the forces out to deny racial equality remain in place, powerful as ever, 52 years after American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on an Olympic medal stand in Mexico City seeking justice and were banished as pariahs.
If we have learned anything over the past three months, beyond the importance of personal health protection, it is that the battle in America, fought for centuries and at year another peak, can be distilled to two sides facing the same subject.
One side is taking up arms for a “race war,” suggesting our conflict is limited to black vs. white, descendants of slaves vs. descendants of slaveowners, neglecting to recognize that we are, more than ever, a nation of many ethnicities.
The other side, the one on which the NBA generally stands, sees it as a fight against racism.
Consider that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been exquisitely complementary Warriors teammates for nine years. Never, though, was their bond tighter and more exquisite than on Tuesday night in their identical response to Doc Rivers’ passionate, plaintive commentary on the constant dangers of being Black in America.
“What stands out to me is just watching the Republican convention and viewing this fear, right, (and) all you hear is (President) Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers said after his Clippers routed the Mavericks in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series. “We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that are denied (the right) to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.
“It’s really so sad. I should just be a coach and it’s so haunting, reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to demand better. It’s funny. (Anti-racism forces) protest and they send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits. (White people) go to Michigan with guns and they’re spitting on cops and 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.
“If you watch that video, you don’t need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged. 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 a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It’s just ridiculous. Breonna Taylor, no charges, nothing. All we’re asking is (that) you live up to the constitution. That’s all we’re asking. For everybody.”
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Doc’s words managed to unify the Warriors and Clippers at a level not seen since Donald Sterling’s recorded racist diatribe that led to his ouster from the NBA in 2014.
Thompson, who tweets maybe three times a month, responded by tweeting, in part, “‘Thank you for this, Doc! So powerful and nothing but facts!’”
Less than four hours later, Curry tweeted his response saying, in part, “‘We need change! There is so much Truth in every Every word of this. Y’all wake up.’”
These tragedies have existed for centuries, Black people being imprisoned or displaced by a White power structure issuing disparate forms of “justice” – or murdered with an official with a gun decides to bypass the legal system by pulling the trigger.
What adversities might we have prevented the past few years if, instead of castigating men for peaceful protests and urging they be fired from their job, the president of the United States had taken a few moments to consider their grievances? If he had acknowledged injustice and engaged in meaningful attempts toward corrective action?
There are many reasons why we are where we are, and why sports are a cauldron of dialogue. Sports have been a reliable sedative, providing serenity amid the afflictions that come with life. Sports have been a welcome stimulant, lifting sagging spirits toward pleasure. We know they are a temporary intoxicant. We also know we need them.
Not on Wednesday, and the league understands.
“The NBA and the NBPA today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed,” the NBA said in a statement. “Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled.”
In this moment, sports are wholly insufficient for both the spectator and those involved. Is it not asking too much of someone to keep dribbling or blocking or skating or swinging for the fences when gunshots do not stop?