The appetite for social justice and systemic change has never been any greater than it is now among professional athletes.
But the challenge that the Boston Celtics and so many players in the Orlando Bubble are grappling with is, what does the menu for that look like?
Because for many players, the most recent shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by a police officer, only adds to the anger and frustration that so many Black players are feeling about the state of our country right now and its mistreatment of Blacks.
And while players in the Orlando Bubble grapple with the best way to proceed, those of us on the outside are in a different kind of Bubble, feeling just as helpless and trapped as the players do in Orlando.
Because nothing seems to be working.
The raised awareness of social injustices and corporate activism we have seen since a police officer planted his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 546 seconds … that didn’t do Jacob Blake a bit of good as his body was riddled with seven bullets in relation to a domestic disturbance.
That didn’t bring about any sensible law and order when an armed, 17-year-old white male killed two protesters of the Jacob Blake incident, and walked with his hands raised acknowledging what he did only to have the police officers drive right past him.
Black man gets seven bullets to the back following a domestic disturbance.
White man kills two in the street and walks right past officers all the while folks are screaming at the top of their lungs, “He just shot them! Dude right here just shot them!”
As you listen to players like Grant Williams and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, it’s clear that they are struggling to figure out what the next step should be in their quest to bring about the kind of systemic change that will prevent the seemingly never-ending stream of senseless deaths of Black people, from happening.
They are trying to balance a desire to be patient, well-aware that change doesn’t come overnight, while remaining active in their efforts to continue highlighting the societal ills of our country.
“All we can hope and try to do is impact change,” Williams said. “That’s something we’ve always strived for. We started with the kneeling. We were hoping that would send a message. But then as that message gets pushed out, they stop showing us. So then, it’s like what can we do next? To not only show that we’re involved but show that we really care. It saddens us to see that nothing has changed. Something has to happen. That’s part of the discussion.”
Part of those conversations includes potentially boycotting Game 1 of their best-of-seven series which is set to begin Thursday night, which would be similar to what the Milwaukee Bucks did prior to their Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
“Being a Black man in America, is more important than what I’m doing on the basketball court,” Tatum said. “Using my platform, my voice to help create conversations … change is more important than anything I can do out there.”
Regardless of whether the Celtics and Raptors boycott, NBA players are showing no signs of letting the conversation about the need for systemic change and social justice die or go away quietly.
But that’s part of the problem.
Far too much of what’s happening now is talk; talk that isn’t bringing about the kind of change or even moving significantly in that direction.
Following the Los Angeles Clippers' win over Dallas on Tuesday night, ex-Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave a moving speech that spoke not only to but also for many Blacks in this country.
“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back,” Rivers said.
And of course, there are some a$$#%^&s who think Rivers, a former NBA player and now head coach, isn’t in a position to talk on such topics.
He’s made a lot of money.
He is widely respected and liked.
Well, that didn’t do him or his family any good when he was in San Antonio and they lost everything to a “suspicious” fire.
“My house has been burned to the ground, animals tortured and burned as well,” Rivers’ son Austin, tweeted out earlier. “Along with anything we ever loved, and held treasured, because of the color of my dad’s skin. We lost everything and had to start over.”
That didn’t do Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks any good when he was tasered by a police officer for a parking violation.
And then there’s Toronto GM Masai Ujiri who was shoved by an off-duty officer working security during the 2019 NBA Finals who later filed a lawsuit against Ujiri, only for the video of the incident to surface recently and tell a completely different story than the officer’s account which has led to Ujiri filing a countersuit.
The events of our times serve as a painful reminder that despite what may appear to be progress in our society, there are far, far too many in positions of power and decision-making who clearly did not get the memo.