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NBA players divert press conferences to discuss Breonna Taylor (videos)

76ers forward Tobias Harris

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 21: Tobias Harris #12 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during practice as part of the NBA Restart 2020 on July 21, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Nuggets forward Jerami Grant answered every basketball and bubble question during a recent interview by discussing Breonna Taylor.

Several other NBA players have followed his lead.

76ers forward Tobias Harris

Harris, asked about Russell Westbrook’s social-justice shirts,
via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“Nothing against the T-shirts, but we want to make sure that [Kentucky attorney general] Daniel Cameron arrests the cops and officers involved with Breonna Taylor’s death,” Harris said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Before another reporter could be called on, Harris repeated the message.

“That’s going to be my answer for every question — for Daniel Cameron to step up and do what’s right. That’s the only message I’ve got today.”

Harris then politely thanked the media on the call and walked off.

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum

McCollum, via Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest:

We’ve been very proactive with our conversations and phone calls. We actually did a Zoom call with Breonna Taylor’s mother a few days ago to get more information on everything that is going on, everything that has happened. I want to go on the record saying that [Kentucky Attorney General] Daniel Cameron is in position to arrest the cops who are responsible for killing Breonna Taylor and still has not done that, so he’s the one who is in the position to potentially do that. So we want to continue to uplift people like Breonna Taylor who are victims and haven’t received the proper justice that they are due.
“I think basketball is secondary,” McCollum said. “It’s our job, obviously and we have a responsibility to fulfill those obligations, but it’s also our job to fulfill and protect our neighborhoods, and protect the people who look like us, and come from places like us, and don’t exactly have the same voices that we do. I think that’s something that has been on all of our minds. We’ve been very proactive about it.”

Celtics guard Marcus Smart

Smart, via Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

“Before we start, guys, my answer is going to be ‘Justice for Breonna Taylor,’ ” Smart said. “That’s going to be my answer for everything, so I’m just letting you guys know that now. Justice for Breonna Taylor.”

A reporter asked Smart if that would be his response to a question about the team’s defense, and Smart said that it would, replying, “Justice for Breonna Taylor.”

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

Lakers guard Alex Caruso

Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated:

When Caruso was asked about being on the brink of playing in his first postseason, he responded by bringing up Taylor.

“I’m just going to respond with, ‘We need justice for Breonna Taylor,’” Caruso said. “That’s going to be my response to the rest of the questions if they’re basketball-related and not pertaining to me and my sister’s wedding.”

“Just got information from the rest of the players who are trying to stay united with the message,” Caruso said. “This is one way we can control it from inside the bubble. It seems to be an important thing. It’s been four months since it happened that she was murdered in her sleep and nobody has been held accountable.”

Clippers forward Paul George

Raptors wing Terence Davis

Grant’s press conference prompted a major breakthrough. The Nuggets made a far stronger statement than practically every other large corporation:

A billion-dollar company posting “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” is no small matter. NBA players uniting to bring attention should only advance the cause even further.

I salute these players for speaking up. They have a platform, and this is important.

I also appreciate that the common refrain has been “Justice for Breonna Taylor” rather than “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”

As I wrote when Grant raised the issue:

Taylor was killed in her own home by Louisville police in March. Police were executing a “no-knock” warrant based on the stated suspicion she was aiding her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, in selling drugs. It’s disputed whether police announced themselves before using a battering ram to enter the apartment. Walker said he and Taylor were asleep when the incident began. Walker, a licensed gun owner, called 911 and fired at what he says he believed to be intruders. The police returned fire, and Taylor was fatally shot.

None of the three officers involved in the shooting – Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove – have been arrested. Only Hankison was fired.

What happened to Taylor was a travesty, and the injustices are vast.

Crackdowns on drugs have led to extreme state violence. No-knock warrants – and even knock-and-announce warrants executed in the middle of the night – put everyone involved at too much risk. Judges approve warrants with too little oversight.

The politicians who enact these anti-drug laws should be held accountable. The police who order these extreme tactics should be held accountable. The judges who wantonly allow it (and the police officers who take advantage with deceitful warrant requests) should be held accountable.

But the officers at Taylor’s apartment shouldn’t necessarily face criminal charges just for carrying out their jobs as the system called for. Hankison allegedly shot recklessly, and if he did, he should face charges. If any of the three officers did something illegal, they should face charges. But the weight of a failed system shouldn’t fall on the individual officers who follow the rules of that system. The officers were put in an impossible situation – fired upon by someone who very reasonably mistook them for intruders. At that point, the police had some right to defend themselves. Just as Walker had some right to defend himself and Taylor in her own home.

Taylor’s death was a tragedy.

The people who created the system that led to her death should be held responsible. And the system should be changed.

The War on Drugs should be completely re-assessed. No-knock warrants should be eliminated. Warrants should be given more scrutiny before being granted.

Getting justice for Breonna Taylor goes much higher than arresting these three cops.