No one was happier than I when I heard the NBA playoff games would not take place on August 26, 2020. Reacting to yet another senseless act of policy brutality against black people, this time Jacob Blake, the NBA went on strike. It was a glimmer of hope that I and the entire black community needed. When Colin Kaepernick first kneeled I hoped and wished that the rest of the NFL’s 85% black players would do the same. My feelings were hurt when once again, athletes were unwilling to sacrifice for the greater good. I say once again because athletes have taken part in political activities or been called upon to do so many times before.
In the Michael Jordan era, the NBA grappled with taking a stance in 1991. When they didn’t, players who wanted to strike during the NBA Finals like Craig Hodges, Jordan’s teammate, were essentially blackballed. When folks want to argue who’s better, LeBron or MJ, I like to point out that MJ was never as vocal as King James about any issue related to the black community. This doesn’t relate to skills on the court, but it shows leadership skills and courage. When I read that the Lakers and the Clippers voted to cancel the rest of the season, I was elated! Finally I thought! They have to listen to our cries now! Woe is me as I was once again disappointed that the game is once again put before justice.
LeBron, the only player whose voice could shift the tide, had now voted to continue. Damn! I have no doubt that LeBron and many other players will continue to use their platforms to bring attention to these issues. It’s just that the only language this country seems to understand is money. The color that matters most is green. The WNBA, MLB and MLS also called off their games in solidarity with the NBA. If the NBA had continued to strike, imagine how much pressure that would place on those leagues to continue their support and strike as well. With the games continuing, it feels like the burden of fighting for racial justice has been placed on those suffering the most. Those in the street protesting and risking their lives. Those who are poor and underemployed because white supremacist institutions and infrastructure.
On First Take, Maria Taylor said, “The black players in those locker rooms that are in the Disney bubble right now should not be held accountable or responsible for changing the problem that they did not create.” That may be true. There isn’t a manual to defeat this monster call racism and white supremacy. I just think we are going to need extraordinary efforts to make any progress on a national scale.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was successful because it hurt the establishment financially. We need something similar to happen nationally. A strike by one of the major sports leagues could have a domino effect. I envision a domino effect of strikes at major corporations, academic institutions until the American economy is completely shut down. Then maybe change, real change, structural, systemic change can take place. That’s my dream. With games resuming it feels like the dream is over.