Commentary: Not Business As Usual As NBA Players Potentially Stop Their Season in the Wake of the Blake Shooting

By David M. Greenwald

It was a moment that had seemed to pass. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, the nation seemed ready to address racial inequity. But as time wore on, life slowly returned to normal, the moment seemed to pass, polling showed white opinion—other than those on the left—reverting back to pre-Floyd levels.

The Jacob Blake shooting seems to have re-ignited the movement. People were in the streets. Tragedy struck on Tuesday night when a 17-year-old shot and killed two and wounded another protester.

But the moment was perhaps etched in stone when the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with aspirations for a championship and led by one of the brightest young stars in the NBA, never came out of their locker room.

They remained inside for three hours, talking to Wisconsin politicians and leaders about what needed to be done, and then they crafted a statement demanding action.

“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities,” Point Guard George Hill said. “Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings. Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

The Bucks called on 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.”

The Bucks were not alone—the entire slate of NBA playoff games were cancelled on Wednesday.

The LA Times reports that the Lakers had originally planned to speak out against racism and police brutality while winning an NBA championship, with their coach believing that the further they got in the playoffs, the better and bigger their platform would be.

But things changed and playoff games were cancelled out of protest for the first time in league history—punctuating the moment that maybe some would allow to slip by with a shrug or even a derisive comment.

While the Lakers are one of the dynasties in basketball, the Clippers, their cross-town rivals, have never won a championship and have a team that could do exactly that.

On Tuesday, Clipper Coach Doc Rivers made emotional comments on the shooting of Blake.

“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers said. “We’re the ones getting killed, we’re the ones getting shot, we’re the ones who are denied to live in certain communities.

“That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be Black to be outraged,” Rivers said. “You need to be American and outraged. How dare the Republicans talk about fear. We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every Black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over?

“We’ve been hung, we’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”

Both the Lakers and Clippers have decided that they do not want to play any more games. A season that both teams hoped would be a championship season after reloading with new players has already been interrupted by the pandemic, and now it is threatened by social unrest.

The LA Times reports, “NBA owners are scheduled to meet Thursday morning here. It’s possible that if the other teams decide to play, the Lakers and Clippers will continue their seasons.”

The backdrop to all of this is, of course, the Republican National Convention—and at a time when Trump and the Republicans are attempting to convince moderate whites that they are not racist, the RNC speakers on Wednesday barely acknowledged what was going on.

Vice President Pence did play up the civil unrest, noting, “Americans won’t be safe if Biden wins.” He attempted to play up the fear that a President Biden would abolish the police and lead to civil unrest.

But they have a bit of a problem now. On Monday, they invited the McCloskeys, the St. Louis area attorneys who pulled out their weapons on protesters.

During their remarks on Monday, Patty McCloskey, a St. Louis attorney who, along with her husband Mark, has been charged with felony brandishing of weapons against protesters, said, “They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities, they want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning.”

McCloskey continues: “This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods.” She added, “These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

The McCloskeys appeared at the RNC simply because they brandished their weapons in response to protesters who were headed for the mayor’s house, demanding justice for Black victims of police violence.

We got a reminder on Tuesday of how dangerous this message is. A 17-year-old, said to be a white vigilante, shot and killed two protesters and injured a third in front of police and the cameras. The arrest was announced on Wednesday with the police chief throwing more fuel on the fire.

Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the unidentified victims in Tuesday night’s shooting for their own deaths, saying the violence was the result of the “persons” involved violating curfew:

“Persons who were out after the curfew became engaged in some type of disturbance, and persons were shot,” Miskins said. “Everybody involved was out after the curfew. I’m not going to make a great deal of that, but the point is the curfew is in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.”

Meanwhile, as one commentator in the LA Times pointed out, the 17-year-old “appeared emboldened” and “even validated in his actions.”

The commentator writes, “And why wouldn’t he be? The McCloskeys were lionized. He just took the gun-wielding further.”

So here we are, 2020, just over two months from the November election, facing the most extraordinary times that anyone can imagine.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith Olsen

    There’s a meeting this morning with the NBA owners in order to negotiate.  What’s the goal?  They’ve already allowed the players to break their contract and not stand for the national anthem, they’ve put social messaging on the basketball courts, commercials and on the player’s jerseys and the NBA and the owners have given big donations to BLM and other black social causes.  So what more do they want from the NBA owners?  I guess we’ll find out later today.

    NBA viewership is way down this summer, it’s been a free fall.  There are several factors but none bigger than the fans being turned off by the politics.  Truth be told I really don’t think overall the public cares that much if they play or not.


  2. John Hobbs

    “Truth be told I really don’t think overall the public cares that much if they play or not.”

    Maybe not, but Jacob’ Blake’s mother and family, George Floyd’s family, Stephon Clark’s family and millions of others do.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Yes… even if brief, was an affirmation that “there’s something rotten in Denmark”… I assume the family appreciates the gesture, no matter how short lived, as an affirmation of what the family, and/or the Black community is feeling/dealing with… note that the Brewers didn’t take the field, many other teams… Milwaukee is 40 mi. from Kenosha…

      And then a white kid (17) from out of state, goes on a shooting mini-spree, killing two protesters, wounding a third, and even tho’ video shows him going by police, he was not stopped, ran back home to IL, and now has to be extradited before he faces charges… a ‘right-wing’/law and order/conservative,/possibly Republican(?) dude… but at 17, not eligible to vote except with a rifle…

      Full context is important… unless you believe his Facebook, the videos, are all “false news”, and he should not be charged for anything than being ‘stupid’ (or, conniving?)… will be interesting if POTUS speaks to all of that tonight, or will just say, “there are good people on both sides”.[Charlottesville]

      There is “something rotten in Kenosha” (and elsewhere)… and for those inconvenienced by the reactions… go cry yourself a river, and be self-righteous… but am not sympathetic, no empathy, for your inconvenience while you ignore real issues…

      1. Keith Olsen

        It will all come out I’m sure but there’s already video of the 17 year old getting run down and attacked before he defended himself on the second two shootings.  We still don’t know the whole story on the first shooting, we don’t know if he was attacked or not.  I know he did an interview before the shootings where he stated he was defending a business.  Will have to wait for all the facts to surface.  Until then nobody knows not a thang.

        1. Keith Olsen

          New video out appearing that the 17 year old Rittenhouse was fired at first before he fired back in the first shooting.  It starting to look like all three shootings might be in self defense.


          1. David Greenwald

            First thing to do is look at what the Wisconsin law on self-defense actually says. For instance, in California you can’t provoke the situation and then later claim self-defense. There are going to be a lot of very technical issues about who started what and who escalated what.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Maybe, but it’s not as cut and dried as it first appeared.  Is one provoking a situation by protecting a business from being burned or looted?  Is one provoking a situation if they’re acting in self defense? If we’ve come to that then our country is going down the toilet.

          I told you it was going to come to this if the Democrat mayors and governors kept having their law enforcement stand down.  People were going to start taking things into their own hands.  We may see a lot more of this.

        3. David Greenwald

          There are all sorts of problems with the self-defense claim.  For one, he doesn’t have a legal right to be carrying the weapon in the first place.  Wisconsin is  an open-carry state, but children under age 18 are not allowed to carry weapons openly in public.

          He’s also on the street at 11:45 – well after the curfew at 8 pm – walking with an AR-15.  The person he intially killed was unarmed.  He had some sort of confrontation with them.  Shot and killed him.

          Does he call the police?  Does he attempt to get help?  No.  And he had the opportunity to do so because he called a friend from his cell and told them, “I just killed somebody”

          They are trying to get the gun away from him because he just killed someone – that doesn’t necessarily entitle him to claim self-defense.

          That whole sequence casts doubt on any claim of self-defense.

  3. Rick Entrikin

    Two thoughts for NBA players and coaches:

    1.  “No play, no pay,” and

    2.  You choose to express your political views on the court, I choose to not watch you play.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Right now there are only 2 million viewers watching their games out of a population of 330 million.

      And we’re talking the usually highly watched playoff games to boot.

      The NBA has done a good job alienating their fans.

      1. David Greenwald

        Seems kind of irrelevant to their point. In fact, it actually seems to fly in the face of their point. They boycotted the game because they deemed this issue more important than they deemed issues of money and success on the basketball court. So why would they view your point as being anything other than confirmation of more racism in society?

        1. Keith Olsen

          So why would they view your point as being anything other than confirmation of more racism in society?

          So it’s racism if people want to watch sports as an escape from the daily political bullschit they’re being subjected to?  When they tune into a game and they find once again are getting bombed by politics they may decide to turn it off, that’s a consumer’s choice.

          1. David Greenwald

            It’s kind of weird. When I turn on a football game in the fall, we get teams doing their prayers, flag ceremonies, military flyovers, the confederate flag in the south. Conservatives seem to only notice this stuff when it comes in their own faces.

        2. Keith Olsen

           When I turn on a football game in the fall, we get teams doing their prayers, flag ceremonies, military flyovers

          Since when are people acting patriotic a problem?  Do you have a problem with that David?

          1. David Greenwald

            Prayer is not patriotic. Militarism is not patriot necessarily. Confederate flags are racist. It’s a complete double standard and you’ve been so ingratiated into that culture you don’t even see it. You have no problem with a player taking a knee to pray, but you have a problem with a player taking a knee to protest for social justice. You want this stuff out when it’s against you but you expect me to shut up when it comes to things that have been done for years. Complete double standard. The players on the field are not horses and that’s part of their message to you. You don’t buy their silence with huge paychecks. Good for them. If that means you don’t watch, I doubt they care. I sure as heck don’t.

        3. Keith Olsen

          I’d love to rid of all of it – militarism, prayer, taking a knee –> and most of all, pro-sports!

          I agree with you as far as the politicization of almost every pro sport, who needs it?

        4. Robb Davis

          David is raising valid points.  Sports venues have for years been a kind of altar for American civil religion.  One Christian philosopher refers to the “liturgy of the military entertainment complex” to describe what is happening there.  The use of sporting events to promote a certain vision of thriving in the US has been there for a long time but really changed after 9/11.  From “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the 7th inning stretch to “God Bless America,” it is clear what is going on here.

          And so, yes, there is an absolute double standard.  And don’t say military flyovers are patriotic.  They are not.  Many of us patriots find them repulsive and manipulative.  But for many they are fine.  And I have no problem with Tim Tebow or anyone taking a knee to pray—baseball players cross themselves, footballers and others kneel and point to heaven.

          The point is symbolic acts abound in sports and people make “statements” all the time.

          But as soon as a black man takes a knee to protest police brutality, or a team stays off the court to do the same it is somehow beyond the pale. So they won’t be paid and they should not.  That is the whole point of “disobedience”, it costs something.

          And getting all moralistic about the sacredness of contracts implies that people never break them. They do… and they pay the consequences.

        5. Ron Oertel

          So they won’t be paid and they should not. 

          I’ve seen conflicting reports, regarding whether or not they would be paid for missing the game on Wednesday (described in the article).

          That is the whole point of “disobedience”, it costs something.

          True – especially if it costs something to those who participate.

          I guess we’ll see if it continues to that point.



        6. Keith Olsen

          Players’ association executives Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala explained the financial ramifications of bailing on the season, detailing how the CBA could get torn up by the owners and place them in a position of decreased salaries moving forward, sources said.

          It looks like the players caved over money, I guess their paychecks weren’t worth sticking to the strike/boycott.

        7. Alan Miller

          I agree with you as far as the politicization of almost every pro sport, who needs it?

          Worse is concerts.  I don’t care if it’s a country artist spewing conservative/patriotic messages and waving flags, or just about every rock/jazz/coastal artist spewing against Trump — “YAWN!!!!!” — shut the f*ck up and play your music.  I don’t need to hear about your politics just because you are standing on a stage.

  4. Keith Olsen

    So the NBA players didn’t cancel the playoffs after all.   Was there really any chance that they would?

    Players’ association executives Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala explained the financial ramifications of bailing on the season, detailing how the CBA could get torn up by the owners and place them in a position of decreased salaries moving forward, sources said.

    Money talks……

  5. John Hobbs

    Full disclosure I am not a fan of professional sports, in general or the NBA specifically. The fact is that towns with NBA franchises get ripped off by the team owners and the league for millions of dollars. I think most pro athletes are spoiled from their preteens through adulthood and so I am all the more impressed when they band together for the greater good. This highlights the magnitude of the grief and despair that has been brought about by continuing, systemic racism in our society.

  6. Bill Marshall

    In general… “taking a knee”… historically, and currently, that is a sign of supplication and/or respect… traditionally, men ‘take a knee’ to propose marriage… to receive a knighthood… and for Catholics, you ‘take a knee(s)’ at the most solemn parts of the Mass, and as you enter and leave the sanctuary…

    This “taking a knee” controversy eludes me… turning your back, that’s one thing… putting your fingers in your ears, sticking your tongue out, another… but “taking a knee”?  Bowing your head?  In my world those are signs of respect, and even piety… can’t tell you folk how many times I’ve been in, or seen, sports venues, where even guys wearing MAGA caps did not even “remove their ‘cover'”…a sign of disrespect, even when they ‘stood’…

    To me, the ‘taking a knee’ thingy, particularly the conservative (or racist?) reaction, is historically silly, childish, and does not move the baseball, football, basketball, or anything else, “forward”…

    1. Bill Marshall

      Shot clock is f’d… might as well get rid of it…

      In my world those, taking a knee and/or bowing head, are signs of respect, and even piety…

      VG… I strongly suggest you either eliminate self-edit option, or fix it so that it doesn’t lock folk out with 2 + minutes left on the ‘shot-clock’…  whatever…

  7. Ron Glick

    I love basketball and the NBA. In fact I was looking forward to watching the NBA instead of the RNC last night. Sports are the most honest thing in America. They are totally based on merit because you make money when you win so the incentive is to hire the best people.

    Still its odd that some have an expectation that athletes are not entitled to exercise their free speech rights. As for me I’d rather have Kaepernick kneel on the ground than a police officer kneel on someone’s neck.

    Wouldn’t you?

    1. Alan Miller

      They are totally based on merit because you make money when you win so the incentive is to hire the best people.

      Sound like capitalism.  Shouldn’t all basketball players be paid the same?

      1. Keith Olsen

         so the incentive is to hire the best people.

        Unless of course you are an experienced and qualified white woman hired to work for a certain school board.

      2. Ron Glick

        “Sound like capitalism.”

        The horror. For those with capital, capitalism is the greatest economic system ever invented. Pro Basketball players get paid a lot of capital.

        1. Keith Olsen

           Pro Basketball players get paid a lot of capital.

          Yes they do and they realized that when they decided to return to work instead of standing their ground and boycotting the rest of the season.

          1. David Greenwald

            Would you be willing to forgo a year of salary for an issue you think is important? Especially when there are more than one way to skin a cat? I find this a bit disengenuous to say the least. It presumes that this is the only vehicle they have. For example, Lebron James has donated a huge portion of his salary to the cause.

      1. Ron Glick

        I respectfully disagree. In one case there are lives in the balance and Kap’s protest was calling that out. In the other there are no lives being lost. Equating one with the other trivializes people dying needlessly.

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