In the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin, Toronto Raptors players have discussed a potential boycott of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference second-round series against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot multiple times in the back by a white officer on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he entered a car with his three children inside. A lawyer for the Blake family told the New York Times that Blake was “attempting to intervene in an argument between two women” when police arrived at the scene. That same attorney, Ben Crump, said Tuesday that Blake is currently paralyzed from the waist down having suffered a severed spine and several shattered vertebrae as a result of the shooting.
With that situation — the most recent police shooting of a Black man in America — lingering over the heads of NBA players down in the bubble in Orlando, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet told reporters that not playing could be a way to “put pressure on somebody.”
VanVleet acknowledged that gestures like wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts can only do so much and wondered if deciding not to play in a game could bring more attention to the issues at hand. He said the possibility of a boycott was discussed during a team meeting earlier Tuesday. Other ideas are also on the table.
"So, for example, this happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, if I'm correct? Would it be nice if, in a perfect world, we all say we're not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks — that's going to trickle down. If he steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney's office, and state's attorney, and governors, and politicians there to make real change and get some justice,” VanVleet said.
"I know it's not that simple. But, at the end of the day, if we're gonna sit here and talk about making change, then at some point we're gonna have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose, rather than just money or visibility. I'm just over the media aspect of it. It's sensationalized, we talk about it everyday, that's all we see, but it just feels like a big pacifier to me."
VanVleet’s Raptors teammate Norman Powell said he feels like some of the message is getting “washed out.”
Powell: "Taking a knee for the anthem, that's not getting the job done. That's getting washed out...Something has to happen where you're forcing those people who can make the change to do something."— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) August 25, 2020
Asked about boycott, says a lot of things have been talked about.
Other NBA players speak out on Jacob Blake shooting
On the Boston side, Jaylen Brown spoke passionately Tuesday about the Blake shooting.
“The question that I would like to ask is: does America think Black people or people of color are uncivilized, savages, or naturally unjust? Or are we products of the environments that we participate in? That’s the question I would like to ask to America and America has proven its answer over and over and over again. Are we not human beings? Is Jacob Blake not a human being?” Brown said.
“We can’t do anything from here. First of all, we shouldn’t have even came to this damn place, to be honest. I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are,” Hill said.
“People get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as Black people in America,” James said. “Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified. Because you don’t know. You have no idea.
“You have no idea how that cop that day left the house. You don’t know if he woke up on the good side of the bed. You don’t know if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You don’t know if he had an argument at home with a significant other, if one of his kids said something crazy to him and he left the house steaming. Or maybe he just left the house saying today is going to be the end for one of these black people.
“That’s what it feels like. That’s what it feels like. It just hurts. It hurts. It’s just through the grace of God that he’s still living. Like seven shots, close range and he’s still alive? That’s through the grace of God right there. My prayers go out to that family and that community, but I’ve got nothing nice to say about those cops at all. At all.”
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