In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, protests broke out across the country, with participants advocating for racial equality and police reform.
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson was among them, as he gathered with family members, friends, even some old teammates to join a march in Los Angeles for what he called “a big moment in time.”
The thing is, that moment isn’t over, as far as he’s concerned. Even though the Jazz heading to the campus bubble in Orlando on Tuesday for the coming resumption of the NBA season means that Clarkson’s on-the-spot participation in such moments is off the table for the time being, he’s eager for players to use the coming spotlight to continue to push the message to the masses.
And for those who argue that such “politics” have no place in the league, that sports are intended to be a haven, a place to escape from the harsh realities of the world, well, he’s got a simple, straightforward reply.
“Everybody that’s saying ‘Shut up and dribble,’ maybe they should shut up and go look at themselves in the mirror,” Clarkson said Sunday morning in a Zoom conference call with local and national media.
At this point, Clarkson continued, anyone arguing against athletes using any platform they have at their disposal to highlight the continued systemic inequities that Black people face is being either obtuse or selfish.
“Something’s got to change. This is a problem that everybody’s noticing,” Clarkson said. “… Really think to yourself, ‘Man, it is something wrong.’ You got to face it.”
Clarkson admitted he considered skipping the resumption of the season. First and foremost, he’s among those concerned that the return of basketball could potentially diminish the attention that’s been given to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I would say about the Orlando stuff, it isn’t an ideal situation for us to go play right now,” Clarkson said.
He did concede that he factored in other considerations as well, such as his impending free agency, the possibility of getting hurt, and concerns about the league assembling en masse in Florida, where the coronavirus pandemic is escalating exponentially. After reading the league’s directives on the campus bubble protocols, some of his fears were assuaged.
Still, in the end, his decision to return for the July 30 restart came down to one thought.
“I want to go hoop,” Clarkson said. “I’m bored sitting at home and I’m ready to go back to work, for real.”
He’s hopeful that some other work can continue there as well. The NBA has already announced plans to have “Black Lives Matter” adorn the courts used in the games in Orlando. Players can also have their surname on the back of their jersey replaced by one of several specific phrases associated with the current racial/social justice movements.
Clarkson, though, is eager to see his peers and colleagues continue to speak out.
“I know a lot of players have agendas and things that they want to put out, using the platform in Orlando,” he said. “And it’s a plan that has to be executed well, so that everybody can get the message. Everybody can still be affecting and still changing, making this happen.”