The death of George Floyd on May 25, resonated with Americans so heavily that the country, as well as the rest of the world, revolted against the establishment by holding weeks-long protests denouncing police brutality and systemic and structural racism. When Breonna Taylor died in a hail of bullets in the hallway of her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, her killing at the hands of police drew scarce national attention.
Floyd’s death by Minneapolis, Minnesota police, which was captured on video, opened the investigative floodgates into the death of the 26-year-old Taylor, who was reportedly at home sleep with her boyfriend when police used a no-knock warrant to ram through her front down and began shooting, leaving the emergency medical technician (EMT) dead and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, wounded.
The NBA and WNBA have now taken up the mantle through their respective platforms to address Taylor’s death and other social injustice issues with the two leagues being holed up in Florida, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to conduct their arbitrated seasons. Police misconduct or police violence against people of color, especially Black people, is certainly one of the narratives that figure to be front and center during the three months teams are isolated inside the “bubble.”
With Black Lives Matter painted on the basketball courts, the NBA and WNBA are ensuring to etch that thought into the minds of fans every time they tune in to catch a game. In hoping to draw more attention to Taylor’s unsettling fate, the WNBA decided to open its season with Taylor’s name on the back of the jerseys of players. That leaves the NBA to do their part.
“Justice for Breonna Taylor,” James said after the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks in a scrimmage game, a week away from the NBA restart. “We’re going to continue to harp on that.”
After their first on-court action against another NBA team in months, James, forward Anthony Davis, as well as coach Frank Vogel, went all in about the team and league using this time to not shy away from the social justice platform. When it comes to mentioning Black Lives Matter, just don’t inject the word movement to James. To James, being Black should not be viewed as some kind of a social trend.
“It’s not a movement,” James said. “When you’re Black it’s not a movement. It’s a lifestyle. We sit here and say it’s a movement. Then okay, how is this movement going to last? Don’t stop the movement. No, this is a walk of life. When you wake up and you’re Black, that is what it is. It shouldn’t be a movement. It shouldn’t be a lifestyle. It just who we are and we understand that. And we know that for one step that someone else might have to take or for one yard that someone else may have to take, we know we got to take five more steps, and we know we got take 10 more yards to get to the endzone. We understand that and we know that.”
“So, it’s also what makes us as strong, makes us as powerful and makes us so unique and unified…is that we have had so much hardships in our life, either from personal experiences or loved ones or reading history or seeing videos. Rodney King…or just being a part of just the community that you’re in where you’re racially profiled from the time you come out of the womb,” James continued. “It’s not a movement. I don’t like the word movement because, unfortunately, in America, and in society, there ain’t been no damn movement for us. There ain’t been no movement.”
James scored 12 points in just a little over 15 minutes of action on the court in the meaningless game against the Mavericks. But basketball, for the moment, appeared to be a distant second during his extended postgame interview with reporters. Justice or the lack of it for Taylor, her family, and others is what James seemed most concerned about. When presented with a question if being inside the “bubble” would better provide a “unique” opportunity to utilize his worldwide megaphone to speak on social issues, James was emphatic with his reply.
“I don’t go wake up and say, ‘Okay, let’s use the bubble as an opportunity to speak about us as people of color,'” James said. “It’s just what I am. It’s who I am. It’s what I stand for. I’ve got three Black kids at home. My Black wife is at home. My mother is Black…coming from a single-parent household, I ‘m the only child. I didn’t need this bubble to speak about what I am about.”
Davis, who also tallied 12 points in his 15 minutes of action, said when it comes down to it, basketball, at the end of the day, is a runner-up to the matters of life.
“Basketball is a very small thing when it comes to your life,” said Davis. “Obviously, we love to do this and everybody had a choice to either come or not come, but I think when you look at it and (see) what’s going on outside of this bubble and what’s going on in real life, basketball is very minute; and I think us playing basketball and using our platforms to be able to speak out against anything is helpful. It just so happens, in this case, it’s social injustice. I think, if we put it all in perspective…yes, basketball is great, but I think the bigger picture is a lot bigger than basketball.”
According to Statista, there were 1,004 fatal police shootings in the United States in 2019. In 2018, that number flatlined out to 998. Through June 30 this year, there have already been 506 fatal police shooting incidents. At least 105 of the victims are Black. According to the Statista report, Black people stand alone at the top with the highest police fatal shooting rate than any other ethnic group. Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, David McAtee, Sean Reed, Darius Tarver, and others, have their names written on that unwanted list.
“I’m hopeful that all of America has been educated for the last couple of months since we’ve reached this tipping point, Vogel said. “It’s time that enough is enough. Racism is a problem in our country. It always has been, and you hope that the younger generations do better than the generations before, but these killings cannot keep happening.”
At the beginning of his lengthy dialogue with members of the media, James said speaking out on social justice matters is just part of the overall makeup of who he is.
“I’ve never shied away from being who I am and speak about things that not only affect(s) me, that hit home for me but also affect my community and affect black people because we’ve been going through it a lot,” James said. “I seen a video today (July 24, 2020) of a Black man inside like a Wal-Mart or a Target or whatever, trying to buy a bike for his son, and the cops were called on him. He had a receipt and everything. And the cops were called on him and they arrested him inside of the store and took him outside…it’s just heartbreaking, man. You guys don’t understand. Unless you’re a person of color, you guys don’t understand. I understand that you might feel for us, but you could never truly understand what it is to be Black in America.”