The strange, historic, and pointless sports boycott is a mesmerizing topic. We have to start somewhere, and it will be with L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose father was a cop.
After the shooting of Jacob Blake, here’s part of what Rivers said:
“We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear.
“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad.”
You are wrong, Doc. You are speaking out of emotion and hurt, not reason.
America does love Black people, from you and Lebron James to Denzel Washington to Beyonce to John Legend to Kevin Hart to Oprah Winfrey to Lester Holt to Charles Barkley to Denyce Graves to Stevie Wonder to Michael Strahan to Tyler Perry to RuPaul to Chris Rock to Michelle Obama to Colin Powell. Not all Americans, but most.
What you have done, Doc, is expand the actions of a handful of police officers into an American attitude. That is wrong, but I know it is a view shared by many Black athletes. I can hear anguish in their voices and tweets.
But the proof of what I am saying can be found in the countless white Americans who poured into the street following the gruesome death of George Floyd. And also in the general support of athletes on social media.
Why did Jacob Blake spark the spontaneous demonstration? Was it the straw that broke the camel’s back?
What the players did was called a boycott.
Each of those had a goal — the former to change the law, the latter to change the behavior of the farm owners.
What the NBA players did, followed by others, was to strike.
To support Jacob Blake, to end racial injustice and police brutality.
How does postponing a game help Blake? Can he walk now? The players want new laws? How about visiting the state capitol and handing out autographed jerseys? That would accomplish more than going on strike against — whom? Their employers? The fans?
Some players wanted to cancel the season. What would that have accomplished? What would be the lesson to be learned? That would have been suicide.
And while the other sports joined the NBA in taking a day off, MLB, NHL and NFL would not have joined them in ending the season. Sanity prevailed.
Let’s be rational. If the woke NBA takes a day off for Blake, what must it do the next time a cop shoots a Black man? (Cops shoot twice as many white men, by the way.)
Will they take two days off?
The NBA put itself in an untenable position.
As did TNT Sportscaster Kenny Smith when he took what he thought was a principled stand by walking off the set of “Inside the NBA.” It struck me as showboating.
If it weren’t showboating, he would have not shown up for the show, as the Milwaukee Bucks had done a day earlier.
Smith was expressing solidarity with his old profession, sports, rather than his new profession, journalism, where we are supposed to cover the story, not become the story.
So walked off the set, leaving behind the members of his team, who were put in an awkward position. If they didn’t walk off, were they taking a position against the players?
When this thing first broke, Charles Barkley said he supported the players, but wanted to know their game plan. What did they want?
They want to end racism. Most of us do, but there is no magic wand. Racism does not respond to logic.
One of the players said we (as a nation) have no regard for them as people, so they declined to entertain us with their skills.
Punish your own fans? Are they the problem? Carry that to the extreme and you have no NBA. The players would have no platform. How will that end racism?
That brings us back to Doc Rivers, who generalized the actions of a few bad people into all people.
Most Americans — not all — do think Black lives matter, as do Black aspirations.
If the game plan that Barkley asked about is legislation, professional athletes ought to call on Congress and recruit members to pass legislation.
For better or worse, pro athletes are famous and having a picture taken with a pro could do no harm to a politician.
And I wasn’t kidding about handing out autographed jerseys to legislators supporting your ideas.
That will result in more change than sitting out a game, or a season.