By Bobby Curran
Sports may have forever changed on Wednesday August 26, 2020 when the Milwaukee Bucks gathered in their locker room prior to Game 5 of their opening round playoff series against the Orlando Magic. They weren’t meeting about game strategy or defensive rotations. They were discussing how they should respond to a policeman shooting a black man 7 times in the back from point blank range in a Wisconsin town near their Milwaukee home. Shortly before tip-off the decision was made to not play the game, so late that the Magic were in layup lines. Within minutes the news went viral, and very shortly thereafter the other 2 scheduled playoff games were also postponed by the NBA. This was a historical moment, shocking to some, roundly applauded by many as long overdue as a real response to racial injustice and police brutality.
What, people were asking, would be the plan moving forward? Would there be a concerted effort to force real and lasting change? Or would this be another headline that would quickly fade from view? Meetings were held by teams, joined by layers, coaches, front offices and owners. Charlotte owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan was said to be a voice respected by nearly all constituencies, joined by NBPA Head Player rep Chris Paul, LeBron James, NBPA president Michelle Roberts, and commissioner Adam Silver in lengthy discussions about where to go next. Would the season even continue at all? As of Wednesday night 2 teams, the Lakers and Clippers took informal votes that said end the season. By Thursday afternoon, the decision had been reached to continue the season if the league owners would join the players in creating meaningful platforms to combat the systemic racism. And they did, including, where possible, to use league arenas as polling places in the Nov. 3 election.
And while the national sports media became incredibly supportive, in this partisan and polarized country, there were many who were screaming some version of “shut up and dribble”. You need only go to Bleacher Report, and check out the comments section where a huge number of people were saying things like “That’s it! I’ll never watch another NBA game!” Or “who do these players think they are?”
These players think they are human beings who belong to a race that has suffered inhuman treatment for far too long, and while they have a voice, they are using that voice to speak for those that cannot.
The NBA resumed on Saturday, and other pro sports leagues also either cancelled games or practices, and one thing has become abundantly clear. The days of leagues dictating to players what they can say or do, and and how they can go about it, are over. Gone, thankfully, the way of the dinosaurs. This can be a brave new world, and we will all be the better for it.