NBA players’ strike continues battle for racial justice beyond the hardwood

Time was winding down on Aug. 26 for the start of the fifth game in the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic’s Eastern Conference first round playoff series. Eventually, when the clock struck zero, the Bucks were not on the court for tipoff as the Magic stood alone on the floor, warming up without their opponents in sight. The Bucks players decided to not take the floor in protest of yet another Black man who had fallen victim to a police shooting — this time just 40 miles away from Milwaukee.

Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

The Milwaukee Bucks decided they were not going to reward the public with a playoff performance, as police killings and excessive use of force continue to plague Black people in the United States.

(Jose Herrera | The Poly Post)

I support the team’s decision and could not imagine what the feeling in the locker room was that evening that prompted this decision. What I do know, however, is that I stand by their decision and the Black community. Enough is enough.

The Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to forego game five comes four years after Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling during the national anthem prior to several NFL games. I remember Kaepernick being scrutinized for his decision to kneel and being labeled as someone who disrespected the flag.

I had conversations with my brother, a veteran of the U.S. Army, and even he understood that Kaepernick’s decision was not about the flag. When I took an oath in 2018 to serve in the U.S. Air Force for six years of my life, I could not help but think of Kaepernick as I raised my right hand and stood in front of our country’s flag.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) restarted its season on July 30 following a shutdown that lasted more than four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans were excited about the league’s return and no sport had a bigger platform than the NBA as they were going to finish the season in what had been dubbed “The Bubble,” at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Given the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many more, the NBA should be commended for allowing their players to use their platform to speak on these recent events. “Black Lives Matter” was painted across the courts used in Orlando, players’ jerseys displayed phrases such as “How Many More” and “Say Their Name,” and racial injustice was spoken about frequently during post-game conferences.

The NBA supporting its players to speak up against the current issues is a step in the right direction.

The ripple effect of the Bucks’ decision was evident throughout the sports world. The Milwaukee Brewers also canceled their scheduled game against the Cincinnati Reds that same day. Then, the rest of the NBA playoffs were postponed until further notice as many other teams took a similar stand. National Football League (NFL) teams also released statements reassuring fans that they stand with those affected by the injustices occurring in our country today.

Of course, these actions have not always been widely supported by the public. What saddens me most is that fans are quick to criticize kneeling, striking and taking a stand against racism, but these exact same fans forget these sports they love thrive on Black culture and the labor of black athletes.

To tell these players to stay quiet, “shut up and dribble” and to stay out of these conversations is degrading on many levels. I believe athletes are properly using their voice and platform to send a message that “enough is enough.” These athletes are taking a stand against systematic racism, racial injustice and police brutality for those who may not be heard.

I thought about the slander Kaepernick received and the social injustice that had been going on for years. My decision to serve the country came from defending people like Kaepernick and current NBA players to exercise their rights and demand justice.

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