By Milo Boublik
New York City, New York
Following the unwarranted murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and many other Black Americans, the National Basketball Association (NBA) consistently displayed its support for social justice for Black people in America. During the NBA’s season this summer, the players and coaches kneeled during the national anthem before every game and wore shirts that read “Black Lives Matter.”
After a group of predominantly white Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, the NBA is continuing to fight for justice. This insurrection demonstrated the astonishing white privilege and prevalence of white supremacy that still exists in America today, and this display deeply affected the NBA community.
During the games that followed the insurrection, several teams such as the Warriors, Clippers, Heat and Celtics, kneeled during the national anthem. Some teams even performed demonstrations during the actual game to further emphasize their solidarity and support. During the game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Detroit Pistons on the night of the riots, each team decided to take a twenty-four second violation on its first possessions of the game, with every single player kneeling on the court during these first forty-eight seconds. Other teams decided to perform alternate forms of displaying their grief and solidarity such as the Suns and Raptors, who held hands and stood in a circle at the center of the court before their game.
Many teams even discussed not playing in their games, as they did in the NBA’s bubble this summer. However, the players and coaches ultimately decided that playing and displaying their support in the fight for equality for Black Americans on national television would shed more light on these issues than if they decided to skip their games entirely.
Several teams, coaches and players also voiced their sentiments over what had happened at the Capitol. Before their game, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics issued a joint statement that said that the teams would be playing with a “heavy heart” and that “we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America."
Former NBA player and current NBA coach of the Philadelphia 76ers Doc Rivers said, “You know I’ll say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to. Could you imagine today if those were all Black people storming the Capitol, and what would have happened? You know, so that to me is a picture that’s worth a 1,000 words to all of us to see. Probably something for us to reckon with again.” Rivers highlighted the racism in America by bringing up the fact that if those rioters were Black, they would likely be met with brutal police resistance that the white rioters did not encounter.
Players and coaches wanted to emphasize the obvious, stark differences in how police treat Black Americans and white Americans. Celtics small-forward Jaylen Brown addressed this idea that there seem to be two different Americas. He said, “In one America you get killed by sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your backyard. In another America, you get to storm the Capitol. No tear gas, no massive arrests. None of that. It’s 2021. I don’t think anything has changed.”
The players and coaches in the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) now more than ever are trying to use their platforms to speak out on racial injustices in America, and no matter how many people say that they should “shut up and dribble,” they are not going to back down in the fight for equality.