As the premier pro sports league that has been at the forefront of addressing social justice issues, and with a composition that is more than 80% Black, NBA players have continued to remain vocal and immediate in their displeasure with recent events.
On Tuesday, the Kenosha, WI district attorney determined it would not file charges against officer Rusten Sheskey for Jacob Blake’s shooting. The very next day, supporters of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol building to disrupt the counting of electoral college votes that would confirm President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory, and this left 4 rioters dead and 52 arrests. In a short, volatile 24-hour turnaround, the world got a glimpse of the bubbling tensions in the US and the potential for impending violence as the 2021 Inauguration Day draws nearer.
That same evening, the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics discussed the option to not play, in protest of the differences between how Black Lives Matter protesters were handled by Capitol police versus how the assailing mass of Trump supporters were greeted earlier that day. Before the opening jump ball, they issued a joint statement: “We play tonight’s game with a heavy heart after yesterday’s decision in Kenosha, and knowing that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on. The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.”
“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King has said, that there’s two split different Americas,” said Celtics guard Jaylen Brown.
Most of the Celtics and Heat players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem. And the Milwaukee Bucks and the Detroit Pistons similarly protested last night as well. After the Bucks won the opening tip, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo held the ball as both teams took a knee on the court, which resulted in a turnover. When the Pistons received the ball, forward Blake Griffin returned the gesture in kind.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer shared his feelings and said, “We want to do things to help make change, be on the right side of the fight, continue to fight, not be in any way, shape or form distracted or slowed or moved in the wrong direction.”