There was real doubt inside many NBA locker rooms today about if they would play todays slate of games, or cancel the games in protest of the decision of Kenosha, Wis., prosecutors to not file criminal charges against police officers involved in the August shooting of Jacob Blake. On Aug. 23, Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey and left paralyzed.
But all teams elected to go on to play the games, hoping to bring some joy and an escape from reality for a few hours. And then the nation began to crumble and divide even further.
Capitol Hill was stormed and breached by Trump supporters, mostly white men who were “protesting” the outcome of the election.
NBA players watched with fear, anger, and confusion.
In an interview with ESPN, NBPA president Michele Roberts said players are frustrated with the difference in policing seen during 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests and the scene of police on Wednesday offering little resistance to the mob that infiltrated the Capitol.
“All I can say is that I’m grateful knowing that hopefully nobody who looks like me is going to Capitol Hill to respond to this, because if they do, you’ll see a different response by law enforcement,” Roberts told ESPN. “You know it — and I know it.”
Sixers coach Doc Rivers was among the first coaches to speak about the riots at the Capitol and emphasize the difference in response by the police to Black protest versus what he saw on Wednesday.
“The one thing I don’t want people to get lost on is that America does work. Democracy still works. It wasn’t a ton of people there, but there was enough people there,” Rivers said after the 76ers’ win. “If Martin Luther King had said ‘I have a Dream’ today, and then said ‘Now let’s go storm the Capitol,’ there would have been bloodshed.
“When Black people in the past have protested, they’ve called them looters and rioters. Today, they kept calling them ‘protestors,’ for the most part. For a lot of people today, I think a lot of things changed, for the better. Because of what happened. I really believe that. So, hopefully, this is the first step to healing the country. This country needs to be healed.”
Heat center Bam Adebayo expressed his thoughts.
“Imagine if a mob of Black people wanted to go in the White House. Imagine what’d happen. It’d be tear gas. It’d be rubber bullets. … But they get to go in the White House, taking pictures and taking items from the White House. Just imagine if Black people did that.”
When the teams finally took the court, they went on with their own peaceful protest to the mess in Washington D.C., and the ruling of the Jacob Blake case.
In Milwaukee, the Bucks and Pistons took a knee after their opening tip for two turnovers. In Miami, the Heat and Boston Celtics both took knees during the national anthem.
Seeing these athletes kneel peacefully, while white supremacists invaded a federal building, creates the lasting image I will remember from the Trump presidency. It is unfortunate, ironic and in some ways poetic justice.
Let’s just hope Doc Rivers is right, because this country definitely needs to be healed.