Gordon Monson: Angry, frustrated NBA players are steadfast in calling for racial justice. Should they play on or go home?
Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert (27) celebrates a defensive stop with teammates Royce O'Neale (23), Joe Ingles (2) and Donovan Mitchell (45) during the first half of an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Denver Nuggets, Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Seven gunshots in Wisconsin halted three best-of-seven playoff basketball series in Florida on Wednesday. And they may yet end the NBA’s postseason completely.
NBA players in the bubble are reacting to the Jacob Blake shooting by police in Kenosha in a strong, forceful way. They, including the Bucks, who call that state home, boycotted and postponed playoff games, and all the playoff teams subsequently joined in a meeting to organize their next steps in finding the best way for them to respond.
Reports out of that meeting say the Lakers and the Clippers want to boycott the rest of the postseason. Other teams want to continue on.
As the night turned dark, no final decision had been made, but the playoffs could be in peril.
Other reports say still yet another players meeting is scheduled for Thursday, as well as an emergency NBA Board of Governors meeting.
All involved want racial justice and equality.
The question is: What’s the best way to get it?
It depends, as mentioned, on who you ask.
Hard it is to put your own thoughts, based on your own individual frames of reference, into the minds and hearts of the players who have their own thoughts, based on their individual frames of reference.
Their publicly spoken words, including those of the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, have been unmistakable in the call for equality. Mitchell called what happened to Blake “disgusting” and asked questions about when a Black person in America will be allowed to feel comfortable and safe, suggesting forthrightly that is not the case at present.
Maybe all the players should put on the back of their jerseys: “Am I Next?”
Should the players who believe their message about the need for more racial justice is not being properly heard make a statement by simply shutting the playoffs down by walking out of the bubble? And walking into protest marches around the country?
That would carry with it significant impact.
Should the players press on, playing games with those messages spelled out on their uniforms, on their shoes, on their courts and spoken by their mouths into microphones and television cameras beaming those messages to millions of viewers from coast to coast and beyond?
As is almost always the case, there are financial ramifications for strong positions taken by those players, and those matters were reportedly discussed in the meeting. For instance, if they were to blow the postseason up, it not only would affect their current remuneration, but also some players’ future pay, based on the salary cap going down and a collective bargaining agreement that could be tossed out and reconfigured, with overall pay reduced. A work stoppage could be the result.
Important messages calling for change can be expensive.
But it might also be more effective, as mentioned, to power on and play.
It would be a mistake on the players’ part to automatically believe their message is not being heard. It might be that it is being heard, positively affecting the attitudes of many, even though it was not in effect during the sad event in Wisconsin.
These messages sent to the country by NBA players were never going to change everything at once, unfortunately. The timing here is bad. But ears and eyes are being opened, or very well could be.
The frustration and anger are beyond understandable.
If, like Mitchell said, he as a Black man in America worries about his safety at the hands of authorities and feels as though he or a family member or a friend could be violently mistreated — or killed — by way of some misinterpretation of actions, that needs to change.
It just isn’t completely changing overnight — no matter how much it should.
That’s not an excuse, nor is it any sort of defense for delaying change. The sooner, the better. Get as many people as possible rowing in the right direction as soon as possible for what is just and right and even the ignorant might eventually come around to seeing the light.
Listen to Mitchell. Listen to Gobert. Listen to Jamal Murray. Listen to Jaylen Brown. Listen to Doc Rivers. Listen to LeBron James. Listen to Quin Snyder. And many, many others.
Those guys can shoot and coach the hell out of the ball. But they also have important words to be heard and a platform to express them.
The belief here is what the NBA players are doing, if they don’t walk out, is helping, it’s part of the solution to a problem than drastically needs solving. Keep sending that message out, stay in front of the microphones and cameras, keep playing, keep preaching, keep standing tall as an example for change that is worthy of that effort.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone, which is owned by the parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.