“You can pray until you faint, but if you don’t get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.” Fannie Lou Hamer.
In his first game after the boycott, Jamal Murray dropped 50 and dragged the Denver Nuggets to a Game 7. Afterward, he faced the media and discussed his activism. Murray said, “We’ve been fighting this fight for a long time, and we’re tired of being tired.” It was a succinct way to put emotions (frustration, exhaustion and anger) into words but was Murray aware of his language and what he said? Did he know that almost sixty years earlier civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer, the daughter of sharecroppers, a victim of sterilization, white supremacy, racism, and cruelty cried out a similar plea? “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hamer said.
What Murray and Hamer have in common as survivors of racism is the need to make the path easier for those who come after them. It’s not some flirtatious whim that will pass with time or a silly trope: cure the world of racism.
Fannie Lou Hamer, a wife and mother, the youngest of 20 children, was the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers. She had been beaten in a Mississippi jail and had a limp because of it. In the speech she gave, the one in which she said she was sick and tired of being sick and tired she also was quick to point out “I question America. Is this the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives are threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings?”
Far from Mississippi, Jamal Murray was born in Kitchener, Ontario. His father Roger was born in Jamaica and ran track and field, boxed against Lennox Lewis, and played basketball. Murray has basketball genes. He said after his amazing 50 point performance while still emotional “Imagine losing your life. I don’t know what else to say. Imagine a father losing their life while they have kids. Imagine a father, a son, a brother getting shot seven times in front of their kids. Imagine that.”
Jamal Murray’s pain at the idea of racial violence was Fannie Lou Hamer’s life story. After being arrested for the crime of writing down a patrolman’s license plate number- the activists she was with intended to report him to his superiors- Hamer was taken into a back room of the prison and beaten by two inmates, on the orders of a trooper. They used a baton to teach her a lesson and during the abuse the police pulled her dress over her head and she was sexually assaulted. It took her a month to recuperate. She had a blot clot in her eye and permanent damage to her kidneys. And yet she continued to register voters in Mississippi.
That kind of oppression is foreign to Jamal Murray who made $4 million during the 2019-20 season. And yet financial comfort doesn’t insulate black men from the repetitive racial injuries that white supremacy invokes to maintain privilege. The disgust, anger, frustration, and fear is bubbling over in Murray’s soul just as it was in Hamer’s who died younger than she should have but lethal injuries inflicted by racists cut years off of her life. On her tombstone it is written: I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Jamal Murray is seizing his moment while in the bubble. He is demonstrating what scouts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz said about him in 2016: “[His] skill level and aggressiveness is what separates him from your average guard and that starts with his capacity as one of the most prolific shooter/scorers in the college ranks. His jumper is a finely tuned weapon that has been honed through thousands of hours of repetition in the gym and he hit 41% of his 3-pointers on a huge volume of attempts (nearly eight per game). Murray’s competitiveness and overall intangibles, wanting the big shots, having the utmost confidence in his abilities, and being able to find ways to put the ball in the basket at every level he played at, make him seem like the type of guy who will find a way to exceed the sum of his parts.”
In Game 6, Murray wore shoes with the likeness of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd for all to witness. Social justice has been an inspiration in both his games and his activism, but he is an emotional player regardless. Even if Jamal Murray wasn’t in a bubble he’d be doing the same exact things he’s doing now. Standing for something greater than himself. Carrying his teammates. Dropping 40’s and 50’s like he’s at the playground. Willing the Nuggets to a Game 7 where anything can happen.