LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The NBA Players Association executive committee is in active discussions with players who are seeking guidance on the logistics of potentially boycotting games, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
An assembly, organized by players who are emotionally traumatized by the latest police-involved shooting of an African American that was captured on video, was held Tuesday night at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, sources said, and there were multiple conversations about what actions could be taken throughout the day.
Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul, the union president, and Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala, first vice president of the union, were in attendance to show support, sources said.
Players began reaching out to the committee in recent days, sharing that they’re not in the right frame of mind to play basketball, sources said.
Sources said there is a sizable faction of players who are psychologically distraught by the video of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot in the back multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to get into his vehicle. His family’s attorney said three of his children — sons ages 3, 5 and 8 — were in the vehicle during the incident. Blake is hospitalized and underwent surgery Tuesday afternoon.
There have since been protests and unrest in Kenosha, which has led to two fatalities.
The union’s approach is to educate players on the pros and cons of boycotting games and reassuring them that they would be supported regardless of whatever they decide to do, sources said.
There is ongoing dialogue on what more could be done inside the bubble to raise awareness of racial injustice in an effort to enact change and thwart police brutality toward people of color, sources said.
The hearts of players are heavy, with some feeling intense guilt for playing and that they’re providing entertainment that is drowning out the injustices that are plaguing this country, sources said.
Players can request to speak with a counselor in the bubble by setting up an appointment in the league’s campus app, but because of confidentiality it’s not known if that resource is being utilized, sources said.
“We shouldn’t have even come to this damn place, to be honest,” Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill said on Monday. “I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are.”
Athletes aren’t immune to being racially profiled. Sources said as a tactic to avoid being pulled over, a few players have purchased Teslas, believing that police wouldn’t suspect a Black man to be operating that vehicle.
Multiple players stated publicly that kneeling during the anthem and everyone on campus wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts in the bubble isn’t sending a strong enough message about the seriousness of society’s ills.
The pain on campus is real.
Before arriving in Orlando, players had intended to meet weekly to strategize on the best ways to make a difference away from home, but the practices, film studies and the games every other day muffled those plans, sources said. This is what players such as Kyrie Irving, Dwight Howard and others had feared.
“Would it be nice if, in a perfect world, we all say we're not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks — that's going to trickle down,” Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said on Tuesday. “If he steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney's office, and state's attorney, and governors, and politicians there to make real change and get some justice. I know it's not that simple. But, at the end of the day, if we're gonna sit here and talk about making change, then at some point we're gonna have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose, rather than just money or visibility. I'm just over the media aspect of it. It's sensationalized, we talk about it every day, that's all we see, but it just feels like a big pacifier to me.”
With how passionate the players are on these issues, it’s inevitable that something will be done.
After the Los Angeles Clippers soundly defeated the Dallas Mavericks 154-111 Tuesday night to take a 3-2 series lead, Clippers coach Doc Rivers issued a powerful, teary-eyed plea for police officials to treat Black people with the decency they treat every other American citizen.
“What stands out to me is just watching the Republican convention,” Rivers said as he removed his face-mask that read “Vote.” “They’re spewing this fear, right? All you hear Donald Trump and all of them talking about is fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot and all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. And it’s just really so sad. I should just be a coach.
“It’s so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We’ve got to do better, but we've got to demand better. It’s so funny. We protest and they send riot guards, right? They sent people in riot outfits. [White citizens] go to Michigan with guns and they’re spitting on cops, and nothing happens. The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else. I didn’t want to talk about it before the game, because it’s so hard to just keep watching it. That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be Black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged. And how dare the Republicans talk about fear. We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every Black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It’s just ridiculous and it keeps going. There’s no charges. Breonna Taylor, no charges, nothing. All we’re asking is you live up to the Constitution. That’s all we’re asking for everybody, for everyone. Thank you.”
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