Why don't NBA players follow their shot

Strike after police violence : The boycott of the basketball players

-

When Sterling Brown read out his team's statement on Wednesday night, he knew what he was talking about. The Milwaukee basketball player Buck was himself a victim of police violence two years ago, officials knocked him to the ground in front of a pharmacy in Wisconsin and used a taser against him in January 2018. It was really just a question of whether Brown had parked incorrectly.

On Wednesday, the 25-year-old and his teammates appear in front of the cameras and read their joint statement from a sheet of paper. "While there is an overwhelming call for change, no action has been taken," says Brown. “So our focus cannot be on basketball today.” The Bucks should actually be playing against Orlando Magic in the play-offs of the NBA professional league at this point. In protest against police violence against Afro-Americans, however, they decided not to play, the other games of the evening will also be canceled, for one night it looks like the season could be canceled completely.

[Now to know even more: With Tagesspiegel Plus you can read many more exciting stories, service and background reports. Try it for free for 30 days: Find out more here and go directly to all articles here.]

After the hectic meetings on Thursday, the information leaks out: Another game day is postponed, but the play-offs are to be continued. The NBA officially announces that it is "hopeful" to play games again on Friday or Saturday.

With their strike, however, the pros at the Bucks have set a strong example: If we don't want to play in protest against social injustice, the ball and the multi-billion dollar basketball business will be idle.

Even the termination of the season was up for discussion

The resumption of the NBA after the corona break was anyway marked by the "Black lives matter" movement. The professionals only agreed to a restart under the condition that they could use the games and TV broadcasts as a platform for protest. Instead of their names, the players wear slogans on their jerseys during the games. Sterling Brown has opted for “Liberation”, the German national player Maxi Kleber from the Dallas Mavericks has “equal rights” on his back.

The hope of the league, the NBA players and their clubs was: we will play again and make money, but will give more attention to the fight against racism, disadvantage and police arbitrariness. In this respect, it is only logical that the Bucks announce on Wednesday that they do not want to compete. The background to their protest is the fate of the Afro-American family father Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin - the home state of the Bucks.

Conferences are called quickly after the Bucks have made a statement. In addition to league officials, the players also meet, and Jacob Blake's relatives also take part in this video meeting. According to reports from well-informed US reporters, there should have been a dispute among the basketball professionals: The teams from Los Angeles, the Lakers and Clippers, had pleaded for an immediate end to the season, and Lakers superstar LeBron James even left the meeting prematurely.

James is currently the most prominent US athlete, and in June he and other professional athletes started an initiative to protect the voting rights of African-Americans. The fact that a presenter of the conservative broadcaster Fox News 2018 recommended that he “shut up and dribble” in a publicly effective manner strengthened his commitment.

According to the US media, the meeting on Thursday is quieter and more constructive. It is therefore also discussed whether breaking off the season is in the interests of the players at all. You would be saying goodbye to the opportunity to draw attention to cases like Jacob Blake's. In addition, there is a lot of money at stake, the NBA clubs and thus also the professionals depend on the TV revenues. Before the restart, the league was accused of wanting to return to the game mainly for financial reasons.

Reactions to boycotts are positive

Most of the reactions to the boycott are initially positive. TV presenter and ex-NBA pro Kenny Smith just gets up and leaves during the most important basketball show on US television. There are no games in Major League Soccer, baseball games and tennis matches are also canceled. In addition, the WNBA women's basketball league is on strike, the Washington Mystics players wear T-shirts with the name Jacob Blake on their chests - and seven bullet holes painted on their backs.

Unlike other US sports, basketball players are also supported by the leadership of the league and most of the club owners. While many NFL football teams belong to conservative oil millionaires or similar members of the American Old Money, the owners of the NBA teams are significantly more diverse and also more progressive. The Bucks belong to the billionaire Marc Lasry, a longtime supporter and donor of the Democratic Party, the Democrats' party conference was actually planned in the Bucks arena before the corona pandemic this year.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer - ex-Microsoft boss and one of the richest men in the USA - writes on Twitter that the time has now come for a "non-partisan, national police reform". In a video conference between players, clubs and representatives of the league on Thursday evening, according to the US media, the professionals wanted to demand more support from the team owners for their social commitment.

As early as Tuesday, Doc Rivers, coach of the championship favorite from L.A. and thus Ballmer's most important employee, summed up the feelings of many African-Americans. "It's incredible that we still love this country," said Rivers. "Although it doesn't love us back."

The otherwise stoic Rivers, 58 years old, since 1983 as a player and coach in the NBA, son of a police officer from Chicago, was close to tears.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page