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Roundtable: Our thoughts on the NBA and WNBA not playing games in protest of Jacob Blake’s shooting

The Bullets Forever team chatted on recent events in the NBA and WNBA.

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream
The Washington Mystics kneeled on August 26 to protest Jacob Blake’s shooting and racial inequality.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Bullets Forever team chatted earlier this week about the shooting on Jacob Blake and its impact on the NBA and WNBA postponing games due to player protests. We wrote this starting Wednesday evening through Thursday morning, so some of the content made it seem like the NBA and/or WNBA seasons could be cancelled. The NBA has since announced that the season will still go on.

Enough is enough! It is overdue for systemic change in America to eliminate systemic racism. And as events over the past few months have shown us, Black Lives Matter.

Albert Lee: In light of today’s events, I think it’s a good time for us to have a roundtable on them. Please feel free to participate if you’d like.

The Kenosha, Wisc. shooting of Jacob Blake has laid more attention to America’s reckoning with race relations. I find it despicable that he was shot from behind seven times by police. There have been recent protests and even deaths from them.

The Mystics were the first WNBA team to get the league to postpone today’s games. NBA playoff games are also postponed. Should the leagues consider ending play for the season? Or should they keep playing at some point?

Like much of the last five months, I felt bad because of the coronavirus and earlier unrest sparked by George Floyd’s murder. When will we have some resolutions to these things?

Marcus Atkinson: Let me start off by saying that I am praying for the Blake family in this situation. In addition to Jacob Blake and his health, I am concerned about the children who were reportedly in the vehicle because of the experience of what they witnessed, not only to see someone being shot, but especially it being their father. It’s tragic.

As a father myself, I could not imagine my children witnessing such a situation. No matter how you view the situation, the effect that this has on those kids and how they will forever be traumatized with their interactions with police is another example of much this country has struggled with police relations within certain communities.

With that said, I love the passion of these players and their desire to see change. This is an important step that we need to take as a nation. I think it may be time to go back to the drawing board though, in this situation. If we’re being honest, the people that need to hear the message and the experiences shared by many in the black community, are tuning them out. Judging by the low ratings received since the NBA’s return, they are not watching the games because they are of the mindset that they don’t want to hear what you think or what you experience. They only see these players as entertainment, but they are much more than that.

Players need to consider this and consider if it is truly worth playing in an isolated environment while only being subjected to messaging on jerseys and a court for an audience who more than likely sympathize and even empathize with their experiences. I think if we want to get beyond this situation, the players have platforms and the means to influence change.

The players are capable of promoting individuals in power who can create laws and policies that can influence change. They should use this opportunity, especially since we are so close to election time to find those individuals who are committed to making actual changes that goes beyond lip service. As much as I love watching basketball and watching the NBA playoffs to this point, I would imagine these players would be vexed with the idea of playing and entertaining people while there is a world around them that needs their voice and influence.

Matt Modderno: If NBA and/or WNBA players feel like the best way to make a positive impact on our society and their individual communities is to sit out, then they should sit out. That is what they have done, and we should respect that.

If they feel it makes sense to resume play at all, then they should do that.

It’s really easy to sit here and say what we would do in their shoes but they’re in a tough situation with a lot of eyes on them. Regardless of what they do next, I’m proud of their choice today.

Just reading some of the comments on social media about their decision to boycott today was sickening. Sports should bring us all closer together but apparently some people care way more about their entertainment level than the treatment of their fellow human beings. It’s gross and callous.

I don’t know when we will “have resolutions” to things like inequality and social injustice. But just being kinder and more empathetic to each seems like a good place to start. If we can’t even do that and try to understand where other people are coming from, I’m not overly optimistic about our chances of overcoming these issues anytime soon.

Kyle Andrews: Black people have been subjugated to horrific acts by people who hold power in this country for 400 years. While sports have given me the platform to grow as a writer and a person, it would not hurt as a society to put them on the back burner.

I personally believe that the players should do what they feel is the best way to continue fighting against police brutality. If that means that they cancel the season, march in their communities, donate to local charities or use their social platforms to assist with dismantling white supremacy and racism, I’m all for it. Sports can take a back seat at this point.

While we never know if racism will truly be eradicated, it must be fought against — tooth and nail. It is a goal worth fighting for at all times and if one can’t speak up against racism in all forms, are they truly an ally at all? If you aren’t willing to fight for my life, my friends’ and family’s lives, our people’s lives — do you truly care about the well being of humanity as whole? No. So, either others must pen a letter, protest, invest in and protect Black lives.

Ben Mehic: Black people have been oppressed for centuries. Black people are victims of mass incarceration — placed behind bars at disturbingly disproportionate rates. And Black labor is exploited, even after slavery was abolished.

Black people are killed on camera by police — videos of their last breath captured, viewed by millions, yet their killers are not arrested. I, as an ally, will stand by their side and support any decision they make in response to the systematic oppression they face every single day.

I support NBA and WNBA players striking — for not “shutting up and dribbling” because they are more than professional athletes. They are fathers and mothers who have to lecture their children about the Black experience — about how to interact with police, about the deep-seated racism that exists within this nation. I support Black people in their fight for justice and equality because Black Lives Matter, and always will.

Whether the NBA and WNBA return to play or not, I wholeheartedly believe that systemic racism and police brutality are far bigger than sports and will respect any decision that is made. I’m so proud of all the professional athletes, especially the WNBA players who have been at the forefront of social justice issues, that took a stand Wednesday. To think players striking happened on the same day 4 years ago that Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested during the national anthem is mind-boggling.

Greydy Diaz: The WNBA and NBA are majority Black. So when they step off the court they still have to deal with the realities of what it means to be Black in America. When they take off their team jerseys, they are still Black. There is no turning that off or ignoring it. It’s not only issues they face but issues their loved ones also have to experience on a daily basis.

Like much of the last five months, I felt bad because of the coronavirus and earlier unrest sparked by George Floyd’s murder. When will we have some resolutions to these things?

Black people have been oppressed for over 400 years. I don’t know when we will have “some resolutions” but I do know that it’s about time we do the right thing. We must protect and uplift Black lives in every single aspect of society. I’m tired of Black communities being terrorized. After we saw Jacob Blake get shot seven times in the back at close range last week, I couldn’t help but think about the trauma his 3-, 5-, and 8-year old sons would have to endure for the rest of their lives.

It’s unacceptable. Enough is enough.

Kevin Broom: My mind goes in so many directions with these issues. First and foremost, kudos to the players for taking a stand and increasing attention to issues of police violence and racial injustice. What the Bucks players did Wednesday night was monumental. The playoffs are sacrosanct in the NBA, and they decided to forfeit the game. When the Magic players joined the protest, the league opted to postpone all the games.

I lean towards it being a good idea for the league to finish out the season, which is where I think the majority of players are. According to Adrian Wojnarowski in his latest podcast, the Bucks thought of this a one-time protest and fully intended to resume play with the series 3-2. Again, the playoffs are everything to NBA players, and it’s stunning they’re considering canceling them. To me, it underscores the importance of these issues and the players’ dedication to using their platform to cause change.

When will we have some resolution on these issues? Brian Stephenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, talks powerfully about America’s need for a national reckoning, however uncomfortable it may be, with our country’s racist origins and systematic oppression and brutalization of black people.

The long-term impacts of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, red lining, mass incarceration, and employment discrimination have permeated every aspect of our society. These things — and more — need to be dragged into the light, acknowledged and remedied. When will that happen? I don’t know.

Alan Jenkins: It was just announced that the NBA games are going to resume starting this weekend. With that said, it’s still important to let these guys do best for them and their families. (Albert’s note: Alan posted after the reports came out that the NBA postseason was resuming.)

If they want to leave the bubble to be with their family, cool. If they want to leave the bubble to lead social change, cool. If they want to continue playing, cool. Whatever each player or team decides is the best way to move forward, they should do that. Sports can wait and just because these guys are basketball players that get paid a lot of money, they don’t owe anybody anything.

It’s crazy to think that it was racism that nearly popped the bubble, not a COVID outbreak - but here we are. These last 24 hours just reiterated that this country has a long way to go in addressing institutional racism.

When will we have resolutions? That’s anyone’s guess. But what I do know is that we are living through one of the most important times in this country’s history and what the Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, and WNBA teams did yesterday in boycotting their games was bold, inspiring, and will hopefully be the spark that actually changes things in society.

Ian Decker: With reports that the postseason will resume, it is still important to recognize the conversations that led to the decision to not play last night. A lot of players knew that going down to the bubble would be difficult. Players from both the NBA and WNBA have talked about how it puts a physical and mental strain on people being away from their families for extended periods of time. Then you add in systemic racism and inequality gripping the nation.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in a bubble environment and the impact it must be having on mental health. I commend the players in all leagues for their actions last night and believe that whatever decisions are made moving forward will be a result of conversations between players and their respective leagues.

As for last night, there are clearly issues that are bigger than basketball. With regards to today, it seems as if the players have decided to resume play. I support and admire the strength of professional athletes, franchises that stand behind them as well as those dedicated to the Black Lives Matter Movement and the fight for Equality.

In terms of resolutions, it is evident that at a certain point, words must turn into actions. With phase one being the postponement of games last night, it’s difficult to think about what comes next. Whatever it is, a plan will be put in place to best combat the issues our society faces.

There are times when it’s difficult to see the impact of words and how they turn to actions. On this topic, a recent tweet by the owner of Real Salt Lake FC and Utah Royals FC, Dell Loy Hansen, illustrates this process. Hansen said he felt disrespected by the decision players made to not play and was not sure about “funding” the club in the future.

Shortly after, U.S. Soccer legend Nick Rimando, current MNT player Jozy Altidore and Utah guard Donovan Mitchell all tweeted in response to his comments, with calls for him to sell the team. Altidore is also ready to purchase the team with investors.

In this instance, I hope the words on Twitter lead to both the MLS and NWSL taking action with regards to Hansen’s comments. FORCE him to sell the team. Kick him out of the league. Apply pressure and sustain that pressure on people who are clearly unfit to own a team.

Hopefully this can be just one example of how words can turn into impactful change.