Jemele Hill’s tweet said it perfectly: “The NBA season is going to be cancelled because of racism, not COVID. Think about that.”
The Atlantic contributor and ex-ESPN anchor issued her post after all playoff games were shut down on Aug. 26 after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court against the Orlando Magic, and the rest of the league joined them in solidarity. At the moment of this writing, the league is hurriedly meeting, with play likely to resume later this week, per ESPN.
The player walkout came in response to yet another Black man, Jacob Blake, being shot by the cops. Blake survived being shot seven times in the back. The Aug. 23 incident, which happened in front of his children, was caught on camera.
Protests in response to the shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, reportedly brought out vigilante groups with guns. On Aug. 25, a young white man walking around with an AR-15-esque assault rifle — allegedly 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse — murdered two people and injured others. Footage of these shootings was also caught on camera. He was eventually caught in Illinois, but that doesn’t change the fact that a white man who killed people walked right past a bunch of cops before he did so.
Let us not forget that 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in 2014 while playing with a toy gun.
The NBA’s strike follows quickly on the heels of South Carolina’s ex-governor Nikki Haley stating, “American is not a racist country,” at this week’s Republican National Convention. This is the same governor who was in office when Dylann Roof murdered nine Black people in a Charleston church.
Also this week, Vanity Fair unveiled a September cover featuring a painting of Breonna Taylor, keying on continued protests of the fact that none of the police officers who killed her have been arrested. vAnd, at the RNC, the man with the power to prosecute them, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, makes speeches.
In the midst of all of this, the Category 4 Hurricane Laura was heading towards the Louisiana-Texas border, becoming a secondary story on the national landscape.
I wrote a column months ago when addressing the initial protests following the murder of George Floyd: “I’m black. I’m angry. I’m sad. And I have no answers.”
Those feelings haven’t changed. But the NBA at least considering ending its season is something I can get behind.
When the NBA canceled its Wednesday slate of playoff games, MLB and the WNBA players followed suit, refusing to play. Days ago, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview with Emmanuel Acho, “I wish we had listened earlier.”
(Outlets claimed that Goodell apologized to Colin Kaepernick, but nowhere did he say anything near an apology or even mention him by name. But for the NFL, this is the most contrition we can hope for.)
I asked a friend what I could say at a moment like this. His response was simple: “What else can you say that you haven’t said before? It’s just time to shut s#!t down.”
Why should players miss their families playing in a bubble during a pandemic when people who look like them are getting killed every day?
He went on to say that he would welcome not just the NBA season shutting down, but also Black artists delaying their album rollouts, prominent Black-run podcasts pressing pause — basically ceasing any effort on the part of Black people to entertain this country with everything that’s going on.
As The New Republic reports:
“The issue of police brutality has actively affected Black NBA players and executives. Bucks guard Sterling Brown is currently in the middle of suing the city of Milwaukee after he was shoved and tasered by an officer outside a Walgreens, who subsequently stood on his ankle and knelt on his neck. Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri — arguably the best GM in the game — was just vindicated by video last week regarding an incident from the 2019 NBA Finals in which an Alameda County cop working the championship’s final game blocked Ujiri from celebrating on the floor with his players, shoved him with two hands, and told him to ‘back the fuck up.’”
This past Sunday, I celebrated my 37th birthday. As a DJ, I decided to do an Instagram Live set, playing my favorite songs while sipping mimosas. It’s funny that Facebook and other social media outlets won’t allow the records to be played on their platforms when people want to replay my set, but you can see the shooting of Jacob Blake on your timeline. Playing a song objecting to police brutality is more challenging to accomplish than actually witnessing the brutality.
Maybe shutting down all Black contributions to entertainment can cause a ripple effect. It can show how vital our contributions are to this country. And that if we are that important, we should see real action when there is an issue we want addressed.
Maybe the best move is not to wait for social media to mute us. Instead, we speak louder by muting ourselves. As my friend said near the end of our conversation, “America doesn’t deserve Black entertainment right now.”