By: Kevin Harinarine
What did you see when you looked out of your window last summer? Did you see the protesters marching down the street? Maybe you got a glimpse of the unrest that the media kept playing on TV? Or maybe you heard the National Basketball Association (NBA) was canceling some of its games? All these things were happening to get one message across: Something must change for us to remain intact as a community.
This all started with police violence against the Black community. It kept happening as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement spread across U.S. cities. So many of us reacted to some simple fact: During 2020 alone, African Americans were targets of police violence. According to Mapping police violence, a research collaborative that collects statistics about police killings, Black people were 28 percent of those killed by police in 2020 despite being only 13 percent of the population. There were only 18 days in 2020 when police didn’t kill someone.
Even more horrific is when you put a face to those numbers or when you see police violence on video. In the August 2020 shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, we saw a man gunned down by police in front of his children. We saw a trust broken between police and the people they swore to protect. We weren’t the only ones watching. That night, NBA players removed themselves from playing their game. It wasn’t just because they wanted to send a message, but rather they saw what many Americans saw. Blake could have easily been them; any one of them could have been a name showing up on the news that night. You, me and especially those in the Black community could have been killed by police last year. What happens when those sworn to protect you become the greatest threat?
Kyle Goon, a journalist for “The Orange County Register,” quoted Lebron James, a notable player leading this charge. “It’s fortunate that we had the George Floyd video to see it. … Is that what we need — to see a video of Breonna being killed for people to realize how bad the situation is?”
Sports players speaking up for racial justice isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2016, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. Before Kaepernick, there were protests within the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) where players like Tina Charles wore black T-shirts during their games causing players to be fined. The difference today is public support for BLM and many more have seen these videos of inhumane acts. Yet there has still been some backlash/outrage in response to these protests.
There are some who believe that "politics" should be left off the court. Former President Donald Trump stated to Fox News that the NBA had lost him as a viewer due to its players taking a knee. Other proponents against this criticize players for “taking the night off” as they wouldn't be facing financial burdens. Some people even say that NBA players aren’t paid to have a political outlook. While this is true, what many forget is that the wealth these players have was never “simply handed to them.” And let’s not forget these players are entitled to have human reactions to the loss of another life due to senseless violence.
There's no denying that the actions of WNBA and NBA players have raised awareness. You’re probably wondering whether their protests will affect the nation, if any long-term impact is being achieved. Well, we need to take into account that throughout the history of sports, people have learned to respect these players and listen to what they have to say. We sometimes see ourselves in these players. We want them to succeed because to us these players are role models. Some might even go as far as to call these players our moral heroes because they teach us to be the best that we can on and off the court while treating everyone with fairness and value. So why should we expect a moral hero to stand on the sidelines when they could move so many people into doing the right thing in making a fair and just society?