The cancellations of today’s NBA games are something that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s watched the news during the pandemic. It should not be shocking that the sport that has the most black viewers and the most high profile black participants have done this. It shouldn’t astonish you that a sport that actively backs social justice will have the players decide to do this. The only thing that should be surprising is that it took this long.
Throughout my life, I have often heard the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’. We go through life, we go through the motions, with most of us having but a surface level acknowledgment of the injustices both here and abroad. For myself, having that surface level acknowledgement is a coping mechanism. If I have to think more about how on the wrong day some asshole cop can shoot me dead, I will be overcome with either anger or sadness. It is exhausting to repress this day in and day out. I’m sure if you are black and reading this, you feel that same pain. But we bore through it. We had to in order to survive.
That came to a head when Michael Brown died. There were fires, riots, looting, etc…All of it justified, all of it warranted. American people in general have had their wealth taken from them for centuries. This is even more apparent for black people when you realize the compromises they give us (Civil Rights Act, affirmative action, etc…) simply allow entities to side step the problem or weaponize these same things to continue discrimination. During this time, Obama spoke and said this was wrong. Legislation happened, but even as it did, more and more African Americans are killed. We do not live in the Wild West or Medieval Europe where people are tried and executed at the moment of their arrest. Pedophiles are allowed to live out the rest of their lives in jail without getting shot and killed by the police, and they do an action that is an affront to every biological and social construct.
Going back to the legislation, Obama eloquently addressed these issues. But they still happened. People were, in essence, lulled to sleep because Obama said racism was bad. We go through Dylan Roof shooting up a church, we witness Kaepernick being black-balled by the NFL, black people who legally own guns being killed, etc…But like water boiling, eventually you reach the point of no return. This happened when George Floyd was killed.
People remain ‘ignorant’ through distractions. We have distractions of sports, vacations, dining, museums, theater, work, etc…What happens when all of that is taken away by a virus that has us stay home? We see the media every day. We have the fog wiped from our eyes. We wake up as a collective. We saw a man dying on camera for almost 9 minutes. The same cycle of history happened, but this time it became mainstream to say ‘Black Lives Matter’. Imagine…those three simple words that shouldn’t even be a question now became ok to say. I’ve followed many people on twitter for at least 7–8 years. Until this year, they never said BLM. They were silent, but they woke up because there was no choice. President Trump threatening to send the military to places that were protesting woke even more people up. Now instead of a president saying racism is bad and moving along, you have a president using coded language to threaten those protesting, rioting, and looting. More companies feel empowered to speak up. The NBA and MLB actively had commercials saying black lives matter. Goodell gave a (tepid) apology for ever doubting that. The veil was lifted.
Now in my 28 years on Earth, I’ve witnessed my first strike due to a social justice issue. I love sports, I love how it brings us together to root for a common cause and make memories. And now, this strike will bring people together to see what is happening. These NBA players have to be a catalyst for something more. It’s not going to stop at the NBA, I can almost guarantee it. Athletes and entertainers are the only black men that this country will listen to and respect because of the money they bring in.
I will easily welcome sports having consistent strikes for however many years if this is the start of a future where my children or my great grandchildren don’t have to have ‘the talk’ about being killed by the police.