What worries Ottawa Blackjacks announcer Vikta Paulo most about the professional players' boycott that spread like wildfire from league to league this week isn't that it will jeopardize the sport he loves — but that the movement might fizzle out.
"It's a great effort they've started, but I think now there needs to be a real movement behind it to follow it up, or else it's just going to be all for nothing, unfortunately," Paulo told Ottawa Morning.
NBA playoffs are set to resume Saturday after players refused to participate in games on Wednesday in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wis.
Following their lead, athletes from the WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer also refused to participate in scheduled games.
Players from the Milwaukee Bucks sparked the boycott, and were soon followed by other teams including the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are scheduled to take on the Boston Celtics Saturday and Monday.
Shades of the past
Paulo said the boycott made him think of a similar one in 1961, when Bill Russell and some of his Celtics teammates pulled out of a game to protest systemic racism.
"So the reason they protested [was] for social justice and inequality in America, and unfortunately, 59 years later, here we are right now having that exact same boycott for the exact same reason," Paulo said.
Paulo, a Black man raised in Ottawa, said he worries the limited boycott won't change racist, ignorant minds.
"Two days, two weeks, even two months of not having NBA basketball on television will honestly not change the mind of that individual," he said.
Hope for the future
Manock Lual, a basketball coach and former professional player, is hopeful that even if this moment hasn't brought about real change for Black communities, it could help future players.
"I could say things are heading possibly in the direction where light is being shined upon what's actually happening," Lual said.
As a Black man with a professional basketball career, Lual said the imbalance of power can be striking.
"It's hard to look at the basketball world. When you go to a tryout, it's a hundred athletic men in a room being chosen by a bunch of owners," he said.
"So that's kind of similar to what we did back in the day when slave owners would come and look at a whole bunch of Black African men and pick the ones that they would like to come till their land."
Giving kids 'the power of ownership'
Lual believes now is the time to have tough conversations about the systemic racism that's been allowed to take root within the sport.
He said as a young player, he didn't realize there was something wrong. As a coach, he wants to make sure young players are going in with their eyes wide open.
Lual started Prezdential, a basketball mentorship program for youth in Ottawa's Overbrook neighbourhood, three years ago.
"One thing I try to give to the community and the kids [is] the power of ownership. When you own the vessel that you're sailing ship on, I think you start to understand that you've been given less along the way."