Danny Green has been about the messaging from Day 1. When the NBA came through with the idea to restart its 2019-20 season after a four-month hiatus, Green has been on point in addressing the unjust police officer-involved killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police brutality.
Before the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard answered or fielded any questions at any of his pressers, Green would drop his standard line of victims of police violence at every opportunity that he sat in front of a microphone.
“First and foremost, before we start the interview, I want to make sure I’m consistent with using my platform for the bigger picture and a greater cause, and that’s for the social injustice that’s happening around the country,” Green said one day prior to Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Miami Heat.
“We’re not going to forget those people, those names: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake. There are so many names,” Green continued. “The list goes on. And we have to get out and vote, people. It’s a very big deal. It’s an emphasis for us. We want to make sure that you guys understand that we’re not just here to play basketball, we’re here to use our voices and make them be heard louder because we’re not getting the justice we feel is necessary.”
The Lakers would defeat the Heat in six games to claim the franchise’s 17th NBA title. In a year of turbulence and uncertainty, Green and the Lakers managed to will themselves to the championship. The tragic passing of Laker Legend Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter, and seven others, rocked the organization as well as a nation.
The death of Taylor and Floyd then forced the cries of social justice to come knocking on the door. Playing in the first of a two-year contract with the Lakers, Green answered that script by juggling advocacy with his championship hoop skills.
When Green joined the Lakers, he brought with him a resume that showed he’s a proven winner. In 2014, Green and his San Antonio Spurs rebuffed current teammate LeBron James and the Heat in five games to win the NBA Finals. And just last season, Green, after spending eight of his 11 years in the NBA with the Spurs, hooked up with Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors to win a second title.
He’s a bonafide sharp-shooter who has been condensed to role-playing for the Lakers as a long-range jump-shooter. His scoring average throughout the playoffs has been eight points, a rather pedestrian number. But in the social justice department, Green is shooting at a 100 percent clip.
Taking charitable cues from his father, Danny Green Sr., Green said he and his two brothers were brought up to be community-involved and civically-engaged.
“It’s something that my dad instilled in me,” Green said “I can’t take credit for it. Since the day I got drafted, we started doing community stuff around my neighborhood and started with basketball camps. Team Green Basketball Camp started in my neighborhood and we’ve been doing that for 11 or 12 years. This summer…we didn’t have a summer because of the pandemic, so it hard to get one. Whenever we do basketball camps, I usually do one in the city that I play in and travel and do a tour and try to find a way to give back to the community.”
“And the reason why I started a podcast is not only to obviously get other people’s voices out there, get my voice out there, but also to use that platform for the greater good,” Green continued. “Whenever something needs to happen, or needs to be changed, or something needs to be brought to light, I think those are the ways to use those platforms to your advantage. So that’s always been a conscious thing for me since I was drafted, and even at Carolina. We did a lot of stuff with Special Olympics, they taught us things the right way there. But my dad instilled that in me at a young age, he was a history teacher and he did a lot for the community in the town I grew up in. So he instilled that in me and my brothers.”
When the Blake shooting went down in which a police officer shot the 29-year-old Black man seven times in the back at point-blank range, that set off another chain of events for NBA players. The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their Game 3 first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic.
Players were on the verge of completely shutting down the season altogether-playoff or no playoff. The good that came out of the brief revolt by the players was that every city where the NBA has a ballclub in will be turned into vote centers. The league and the National Players Basketball Association (NBPA) agreed to form a social justice coalition.
Once that issue got fixed, Green and the Lakers have kept up their season-long marching orders: make it to the NBA Finals and win it. Somewhere along the way, Green felt the players kind of lost their way, in terms of all the social justice messaging they had been preaching.
“I just want to make sure that the emphasis before we got down here is the reason why we got down here,” Green said in between Game 4 and Game 5 of the Lakers Western Conference semifinals matchup against the Houston Rockets. “I feel like it gets lost a lot of times because of the games being played every other day. We got a short break because other teams took a stand. We shouldn’t have to have that happen for us to discuss or reiterate it, to emphasize it, to make it be known. That’s a big part of the reason why we’re down here.”
The other part of that equation is being at the right place at the right time where both the players and the league would be able to better amplify their messaging,” said Green.
“A big part of us talking to you guys is to use our platform and use the media is to make everyone aware of what the bigger picture is,” Green added. “Basketball is great and all. We have a lot of fun, and we love doing it. But our lives, our families, our friends, and families of people’s lives around us and our communities and in our country are more important than anything else that’s going on basketball-wise or work-wise. So we wanted to make sure that’s at the forefront, first and foremost.”
The names of the victims lost to police misconduct is way too long to list. But in recent years, the more notable names are Floyd, Taylor, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, and Philando Castile. Many of these names came up at one point or another as the NBA played out its regular season and postseason under the bubble format.
Green said it is important to remember the families of these victims until justice has been served.
“Obviously basketball is a small part of the bigger picture of what we’re doing here,” Green said.
Police violence against Black people and people of color caught fire with the rest of the world when a videotape of how Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who placed his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for nearly (8 minutes, 46 seconds) nine minutes. The whole world watched virtually how the life of Floyd was wrongly taken away from someone paid to protect and serve.
That was May 25. The death of Taylor took place in the wee hours of the night on March 13. In a police raid, the 26-year-old Taylor had her apartment home pierced with bullets. Taylor will never know how many shots were actually fired into her living space.
That’s because six bullets fired from three police officers on the scene hit Taylor. A kill shot by one of the three police officers permanently repealed Taylor’s right to live.
Six months after Taylor’s death, none of the three police officers have been held accountable criminally in direct connection with Taylor’s unfathomable passing. Only one police officer, now fired from the Louisville Police Metro Department, was given criminal charges, (three charges of wanton endangerment), something that speaks directly to a criminal justice system that many Black people feel have never worked on their behalf.
A secret grand jury put together by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron never considered homicide charges against the police officers.
“The grand jury determined that there is no evidence to support a criminal violation of state law caused Ms. Taylor’s death,” Cameron said.
Green, like a lot of people across the country, including his teammates, was devastated by the verdict that came back.
“It’s a disappointment,” Green said in between Game 3 and Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. “We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking. Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices”
“But yeah, after today’s verdict, seems like every time we turn around and look at the news, it’s always something disheartening or disappointing, and that’s from all standpoints of what’s going on in our country,” Green added. “We’re not happy about it, but can’t give up hope, can’t quit, got to keep fighting and try to make things better, not just for us but for our future children, future grandkids. We want it to be a better place here for them to live.”
And so, with the killings of Floyd and Taylor, the nation as well as erupted in protest. The message was social justice. And that cause resonated across international waters as well. Athletes, as well as celebrities, beat the streets to make their voices heard in unison with fellow Americans in trying to bring attention to the continued assault and unjust shootings and killings of Black people.
As people marched, NBA and WNBA players were formulating plans to help get their social justice messaging platforms out on equality to put an end to systemic racism. This was done even before the players touched down in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, where they would be isolated in a bubble format to carry out their respective seasons.
So with nothing but time on their hand, player unions from both the NBA and WNBA worked with their respective leagues about what they wanted, and so this is why basketball fans saw Black Lives Matter painted on the basketball courts. This is the reason why some players adopted to have social justice messages stitched to the back of their jerseys.
The coaches even got in on the messaging, some wearing t-shirts with the names of victims of police brutality and having a “Coaches for Racial Justice” placed on the front of their coach wear. But as the season flourished into the playoffs, that messaging seem to wane from its energetic beginnings.
With the NBA Finals at its conclusion, social justice now appears to be on the backburner as COVID-19 continuing to rage across all arenas and players absorbing bubble fatigue. Outside of James, the one player who has been consistent in bringing the topic of social justice up has been Green.
As far as continuing to practice what he’s been preaching, don’t expect Green to be as visible as he has been the last few months. But if there is one thing you can count on, he’ll be putting in the work to help make his community and the country better.
“I’m not really a guy that’s big on being in the streets for media attention or taking pictures, but I do want to get, like a lot of our guys back to our communities doing some of the dirty work, getting in the nitty-gritty of things and not having to — you don’t have to take pictures, but actually talking to certain people, getting some things done, putting money where it needs to go,” Green said. “You guys know I do have a Podcast, Inside the Green Room, and that’s how I use my media platform to use my voice of getting certain people on, talking about it, keeping those things alive, figuring out the best plan of action to get some things done, be successful.”