Kyle Lowry, the Toronto Raptors star, was asked about his team’s decision to kneel during the Canadian and U.S. national anthems in his first game back after the NBA’s COVID-19 shutdown. Lowry told reporters while referring to the death of George Floyd that, “to be down there for four straight minutes … to think about another human being kneeling on another human being’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, that’s a bad thought to have, an unbelievable messed up thing that that man did to an innocent Black man.”
After a series of police shootings of Black people that sparked broader conversations about racism and injustice, NBA players like Lowry have been speaking out for weeks. The words “Black Lives Matter” are emblazoned in capital letters across the basketball court, and almost all players in the league have added a racial justice-themed call to action on the back of their jersey. In protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times by police in Wisconsin as he tried to enter a vehicle with his three children, on Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks made a bold move by boycotting Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic.
His lawyer says the 29 years old man survived the shooting though he is now paralyzed from the waist downwards. The NBA postponed all three of Wednesday’s playoff games after the Bucks’ boycott. The Raptors met with the Boston Celtics on Tuesday to discuss the likelihood of boycotting Game 1 of their upcoming Eastern Conference semifinal series, but a decision has not been finalized. The following is how NBA players and coaches have responded to injustices.
Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers coach
Doc Rivers has requested U.S. President Donald Trump to act. This is after Trump tried to label anti-racism protesters across the U.S. as a group of violent radicals who pose a threat to suburban America. While Rivers put on a face mask that read “VOTE,” he held back tears as he blamed Republicans of “spewing this fear” during the Republican National Convention. He stated that all people hear from Donald Trump were they are the ones getting killed. He added that they are the ones that were denied to live in specific communities, and they are being hung and shot. He wondered why they keep loving that country, and the country does not love them back.
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers player
Jersey message: None
The former Raptors player Kawhi Leonard also decided not to wear one of the NBA’s pre-approved messages. Leonard stated that he’s continually working to educate others, and he’s long been investing in supporting the Black community. He added that what’s happened, what everybody has seen on the news, has been like that for him. He stated that he had seen those situations, so it was nothing new to him, and he was still going to help and educate people as well as his teammates.
Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors
Jersey message: Black Lives Matter
Norman Powell’s slogan “Am I Next?” wasn’t among the list of pre-approved messages from the NBA. Though he settled on “Black Lives Matter,” he did not wear the slogan, and he expressed frustration at what he called a “cookie-cutter” list.
Powell said it’s time for police officers to face the consequences of their actions after Blake’s shooting. Powell indicated that they believe they are following the law, and they thought that’s OK. He added that they did an investigation and found them not guilty, and they go home and sleep at night perfectly fine.
Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors president
Masai Ujiri was shoved by a California sheriff’s deputy as he tried to join his team to celebrate the 2019 NBA Championship victory. Last week, there was a release of a new body camera footage showing the moments leading up to the shove. Ujiri said there is clear evidence from an altercation that there’s a long way to go in striving toward racial justice. He indicated that there are some people, together with those who are supposed to protect citizens, who will always and only see him as something unworthy of respectful engagement. This is as he remembered that moment despite all of his hard work and success. He said that happens because he is Black.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors player
Jersey message: Black Lives Matter
Fred VanVleet has stated that going down and making a choice to play was not supposed to go in vain. However, he was beginning to feel like everything they were doing was going through the motions, and nothing’s really changing. He added that they had another unfortunate incident, and his thoughts that day were with that man and his family and trying to wrap his mind around what they are going through. Fred expressed frustration that the onus is on Black men, to lead a tough conversation even as more people get shot. He wondered whether they were going to hold everybody accountable, or they were going to put the spotlight on Black people or Black athletes or entertainers.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers player
Jersey message: None
LeBron James, Basketball legend is among players in the league who have not added a Black Lives Matter message on the back of their jersey. He stated that he opted to pick his own slogan rather than selecting from a pre-approved list provided by the NBA, like Black Lives Matter, See Us, Listen, Education Reform, Equality, and Say Her Name. James has expressed his concerns in interviews and on social media on the reckoning of race. After the police shot Blake, James tweeted, “F—- THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT.” He indicated that people get tired of hearing him say it, but they are scared as Black people in America.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors player
Jersey message: Equality
After wearing a pair of golf shoes with Breonna Taylor’s name on them during the American Century Championship, Stephen Curry has taken his activism beyond basketball. While in her apartment, Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot eight times by police following officers execution of a no-knock search warrant and exchanged gunfire with her boyfriend. Curry has stated that white people should do more to call out subtle racism. He added that they’re going to think the same thing if another white person hears that comment. He wondered what it takes, to do the right thing, and see everybody as equal.