I had no intention of watching the game.
As a lifelong fan of the Orlando Magic—I still have nightmares of my Dad chasing me around the house with a broom after we got swept in the 1995 NBA Finals—I wanted no parts of the inevitable coup de grâce that would be Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Thankfully, I’m in the middle of a move and had the perfect distraction from the gruesome mercy killing that was about to transpire. So when my phone started blowing up, I was preoccupied with packing tape and trying to figure out what in the hell I’ma do with this big ass dresser I no longer need.
But the texts and notifications didn’t stop, so then I got nervous. Did something happen to my son? I hit my people in Texas and Louisiana earlier that day and they all assured me that they’d be spared the wrath of Hurricane Laura. Did something happen to one of them? Or maybe we hit the jackpot and Trump signed an executive order to remove himself from office.
I muster the courage to finally check my phone aaaaaaand that’s when I saw it:
BREAKING NEWS: The Milwaukee Bucks are boycotting Game 5, following shooting of Jacob Blake.
I checked the time and hit my editor, the incomparable Stephen A. Crockett Jr.
“Is it too late to get something up today?”
He assured me that he handled it already, then we spent the rest of the evening doing what every other member of the African diaspora did: expressing our shock, awe and pride at what was transpiring.
When the Bucks emerged from their locker room, after no call, no showing at the J.O., guards George Hill and Sterling Brown addressed the media and made it explicitly clear that enough was enough.
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable,” they said on behalf of the team. “We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”
But this was only the beginning.
With each new notification on my phone, I raised my fist even higher.
The Thunder, Rockets, Lakers and Trail Blazers, all scheduled to play on Wednesday as well, followed suit, leaving the league with no choice but to postpone.
The WNBA, which is always about that action, stood in solidarity with the NBA and went on strike as well.
Hell, even fucking Major League Baseball—MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, Y’ALL—understood the magnitude of the moment and refused to take the field, as did Major League Soccer.
Naomi Osaka, who was scheduled to take the court in the 2020 Western & Southern Open semifinals, took to Twitter to announce that she wouldn’t be playing either.
“Hello, as many of you are aware I was scheduled to play my semifinals match tomorrow,” she tweeted. “However, before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”
Following that, the United States Tennis Association, Association of Tennis Professionals Tour and Women’s Tennis Association to announce that they’re riding too and that the entire tournament would be postponed for a day.
“As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States,” they said in a joint statement.
Even NBA analyst Kenny Smith, who is fed up with the bullshit himself, walked off the set of Inside the NBA in solidarity.
“As a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight,” he said. “And figure out what happens after that.”
So what happens next?
With TV deals, corporate sponsorships, merchandising, endorsements and other extremely lucrative revenue streams at stake, all eyes are on NBA players to maximize this unprecedented degree of leverage. Because once you fuck the money up, the team owners and corporate interests with all the power and resources are far more apt to support your cause—they essentially don’t have a choice otherwise.
I’m of the belief that the players in every sport shouldn’t play a single game until they lay out specific stipulations and those stipulations are met. And however long it takes to do that, so be it. Take your sweet ass time. Because wearing t-shirts, kneeling during the national anthem, and printing “Black Lives Matter” on the court didn’t stop Kenosha police from firing at least seven bullets into the back of Jacob Blake.
The time for change is now.
With the NBA season in jeopardy, players convened Wednesday night to discuss their next steps. Owners got called out for their lack of involvement and initiative regarding social justice matters, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown questioned the motives of players who wanted to leave the bubble and go home, and the Lakers and Clippers expressed their desire to skip the rest of the season altogether.
The NBA Board of Governors will meet on Thursday, with the expectation that Thursday’s games will have to be rescheduled as well, but the solution to all of this is simple: Stop killing us.
Stop discriminating against us.
As Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “All we’re asking is you live up to the Constitution.” That’s it.
The pin has been pulled from the grenade and we’ve prepared our entire lives for whatever’s about to ensure.