NBA Stands Against Racial Injustice

Zoe Foose, Sentry Reporter

The 2020 NBA season, which was put on hold due to COVID-19, returned at a time of mass civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd. One of the first strikes that occurred throughout the league took place on August 26, 2020, exactly four years after Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers initially protested police brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem. A wide reaching statement was made as the Milwaukee Bucks decided to protest their first round playoff game in wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, only an hour away from Milwaukee, the city the Bucks call home. 

In addition to the postponing and protesting of games, the league allowed players to display social justice messages on the back of their jerseys. “Black Lives Matter” was painted on many courts as teams elected to kneel together during the anthem. Public statements were released on behalf of the teams and numerous press conferences — led by both players and coaches — occurred. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks released a statement from his team in which the organization states it “remains firmly against excessive use of force by law enforcement.” 

“It’s a lot in America. As Giannis, I stand for change. My team stands for change. Every time we see something that’s not right, we’re going to speak about it and use our platform the right way. This really bothers me. My kid is going to grow up here in America, and my kid is Black. I can’t imagine my kid going through what I’ve seen on the TV,” Antetokounmpo said.

Many players across the NBA released similar heartfelt statements where they touched on the difficult subject by including their personal feelings and experiences. 

Malcolm Brogdon, previously one of the Bucks’ star players and President of the Bucks Peter Feigin, agreed on one important matter; Milwaukee was the most segregated, racist city either has ever experienced. 

When interviewed in 2019 for a lengthy chronicle of his unique upbringing and awareness of social inequity for black Americans, Brogdon was questioned about Feigin’s statement regarding the city of Milwaukee. Surprisingly, Brogdon agreed and stated “before I came to Milwaukee I’d heard the city was the most segregated in the country; I’d heard it was racist. When I got here it was extremely segregated. I’ve never lived in a city this segregated. Milwaukee’s very behind in terms of being progressive. There are things that need to change rapidly.”

Sadly, though monumental at the time, Brogdon’s previous protest efforts and public statements did not have a lasting effect on the city of Milwaukee. A recent decision made by the Kenosha County District Attorney revealed that after an extensive review, the officer responsible for the unjust shooting of Jacob Blake would not be charged. This outrageous decision as well as the glorified treatment of the domestic terrorists who participated in the raid of the Capitol building, prompted another strong response from the Milwaukee Bucks. 

As the Bucks took the court and claimed the opening tip-off against the Detroit Pistons, back to back NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo threw the ball out of bounds as both teams and coaching staff took a knee in protest. The Pistons then took possession and repeated the demonstration with Blake Griffin tossing the ball out of bounds.

During an unsettling time filled with both injustice and despair, the NBA demonstrated a commendable effort in working together to support an important cause and encourage change.