Justice or Just Us? NBA is a Mixed Bag

  • The system is broken. Martin Luther King marched. Malcom X marched. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn’t change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn’t work. We tried that. A couple social media post/tweets doesn’t work. We’ve tried that. That didn’t work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. We can’t worry about endorsements we gonna lose. We can demand change. (Carmelo  Anthony)

About 18 months ago, Carmelo Anthony wrote a very powerful and thought provoking piece, outlining in detail his feelings about what has been going on regarding police brutality. Since then it’s been pretty quiet. Surprised or disappointed?

Valerie Morales:  The other day a 15 year old girl named Miracle was murdered in South L.A. when someone shot into the car she was riding in. We have two professional basketball teams in this town, not to mention a bunch of other active and retired athletes, and not one person spoke about it with empathy. Athletes get to pick and choose what they want to be annoyed about. We don’t have that luxury, particularly those of us murder has touched. Carmelo was a nice one day story but as far as banging the drum, it’s pretty much business as usual.  Nothing’s changed. Athletes are immersed in affluence. We are paralyzed by tears.

C.J. Hampshire :  It feels like a loop. It’s been almost been nine years since Oscar Grant was murdered by police on BART. All of us can talk about where we were when this happened and when that happened but athletes are like the rest of us. They get riled up by public events and then things settle down and then so do they. It’s the grass roots activists that never stop.

Mallory Stith-Wheat: Disappointed. I think there was an opportunity. The NFL faced a disaster but the bottom line was players came together to create policy.

Brendan Gillespie:  In that Carmelo piece, he talked about not caring about endorsements. I was skeptical. He’s a guy who wouldn’t rescind his no-trade clause until the midnight hour, who wouldn’t shorten his deal with Denver to be a free agent with LeBron and Wade.  Athletes care about money and will only jeapordize it if they know they will still get paid.

Are you buying Steph Curry being the face of the league and profiting on that elite level and at the same time being powerful in advocacy?

Mallory:  Sort of.  He has grown into his role. Everyone wants to know his opinion. He doesn’t have to speak the loudest. I think his pushback on Trump has been his way to show his resistance. But he’s not on LeBron’s level.

Brendan:  When Michael Jordan refused to openly support Harvey Gantt’s bid for Congress, he didn’t have to face the wrath of social media. He could be in the shadows. Todays superstar athletes are going to get called out if they can’t align themselves with human rights violations.  Steph does some. But not everything.

Valerie:  Steph was raised with privilege. Those athletes are scrutinized more, not less. But at the end of the day, if they seem real, if they don’t overreact and pander, if they just are themselves, that is all they need to do to get respect.  Fans don’t want to see a phony or a politician. At the end of the day, it is basketball. But selfishly, when Steph talks about water to sell water, it would be nice to hear him talk about poor places like Flint that have to drink contaminated water.

C.J.:  Fame dropped into Steph’s lap one day. He had to learn on the fly.  I think he is doing what is in his ability to do. He is a high character, moral guy.  A lot of the criticism, like the cost of his basketball camp, is because he’s privileged. He’s not necessarily a stakeholder in quiet realities of ordinary people.

  • So bc I say Black Lives Matter: 1. I don’t think ALL LIVES MATTER?  2. I’m in favor of cops being killed? Some people are ignorant af. The issue at hand regards my race and I have every right to speak on it!  If you don’t liked it, it’s a [big] UNFOLLOW button on the top of my page! Saying all lives matter is like saying we all need to air to breathe!!! Killing a cop is no better than a cop taking a life! Innocent black lives are being taken by those sworn to protect and serve, not murder! When does it come to an end? And you wonder why people rage? We aren’t getting justice, just more body counts! People are getting sick of this [stuff]. So yes, Black Lives Matter!  (Bradley Beal)

Two summers ago, Bradley Beal was very strong in relating with his Twitter followers about his anger and the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Is he the template for how athletes need to use social media when instances of violence, assault, racism and sorrow are part of the nation’s conscience, meaning clapback at followers who don’t agree with him?

Brendan:  It’s a fine line on social media. Be you. Do you. But don’t insult your followers.

Valerie:  Twitter is a verbal drive-by. It can spew damage in a hurry. A subset of athletes use Twitter for this purpose, as a reactionary impulse. They don’t stop and think about what is the truth. Some are not informed. And then it doesn’t go well because somebody puts them in check. Beal knew not just the facts but the nuances. He framed them emotionally which created a sound narrative.  LeBron is similar. He knows his facts before he starts tweeting.

C.J.:  I don’t think all athletes need to respond the way Beal did. His response showed how much of a stakeholder he is with what is going on with black men and the police. He was extremely frustrated.  He has great communication skills that he put on display when he went back and forth with followers. But all players are not like that. My personal gripe is you live in this world. Part of the reason you have what you have is because fans financially make it possible by going to games, buying your sh*t and watching you on television. But when it is our turn, our needing you- there is a lot of silence.

Mallory:  It was so refreshing to read through Beal’s timeline because he was educating. Shooting black men is wrong. Killing the police is wrong. Hate should not be tolerated on any level. And Black Lives Do Matter. What made it even more powerful is that Beal isn’t the best player on his team. He has never been an All-Star. He has more to lose than say John Wall. But he spoke his heart.

LeBron didn’t hesitate to call Donald Trump a “Bum”. He put H&M on blast. He is aggresive for sure but he picks his spots. But does he give the rank and file NBAer cover because you know LeBron is going to take care of it?

C.J.:  It’s a young league. A lot of these players have been insulated and are trying to figure out how to stay in the league. The goal of every rookie is to get to that second contract and there is so much they don’t know. Then asking them to chime in when it comes to social issues is asking for more than they can handle at 22 years old. They have to mature. LeBron is doing this as a 34 year old man. When he and Wade and the Heat came out with the Trayvon photo he was 28 years old.

Valerie: That’s why it’s impressive when Kyle Kuzma talks about the water crises. He’s from Flint. He lived through it. Draymond lived through Saginaw. Dame [Lillard] lived through Oakland. LeBron lived in Akron. They have all the wounds and the pain and the suffering that comes with being raised in communities damaged by violence. Chances are they know someone who has been murdered, maybe even a friend. That is not everyone’s experience.

Mallory: LeBron is going to take care of it which is why I rank him the best ever, over Jordan. Jordan wasn’t scrutinized in the social media era. LeBron is, knows it, and still goes out on a limb despite what the criticism is going to be. He is comfortable in himself and what he stands for to be able to call attention to the human world of socialized suffering and racial biases.

Brendan:  I don’t buy that. If you’re a man you don’t hide. You don’t let someone else speak for you. If you feel it, if you have empathy, if you know what it feels like to have someone in your family murdered, if you have seen victimization ruin families and racism ruin families and police brutality ruin families you don’t hide. You can’t hide. What do they say about the NBA? No Boys Allowed. Ditto. No Boys Allowed. Be a man and speak up.