“It is always the right time, to do the right thing,” Jimmy Jackson. Today is a significant day in the ongoing fight against racism and police brutality in the United States of America from a sports perspective. Not that each day doesn’t carry significant meaning in this fight, but today, the NBA players decided that their place was much more than just dribbling a basketball. Their unified decision to take a stance against the ongoing issues that this country faces put a very large stake in the ground unlike any other in recent history. Until today, it has been easy to separate athletes from the public perception of how race affects all of us.
Many people in the general public as well as reporters have chastised athletes for years about their disconnection with “reality.” There has been a general perception that Black athletes are above racism and that they’ve “made it.” What do they have to complain about? Shut up and dribble. These sentiments have been expressed by White Americans for years.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Black community has in many cases played the opposite role in demanding that the Black athlete owes the Black community. There is a constant tug on these players to do more, say more, be Black. This is a very heavy weight to carry and understandably, many players do not want to carry that load.
These contrary positions have weighed heavily on Black athletes for years. They have lived in the duality of being Black in the United States in ways that most can’t even begin to understand. It is at the root of what makes today so significant.
In my mind, I have tried to understand how sport team owners have been able to ignore and in many cases penalize players for recognizing and exposing the issues that the Black players bring to light. I wonder how year after year players give millions to their communities and many do their absolute best to help communities of color, but many owners continue to relegate their activities to specific events or “special days” to observe these communities? How can someone that you hold in such “high regard” for your organization not have an impact on your politics and personal policies? They can’t honestly say that they aren’t aware. They can’t honestly say that no one has ever said anything. They can’t say that these issues were never expressed? Especially over the last four years since Colin Kaepernick started peaceful protests to bring these specific issues to the forefront of conversation in the United States.
I do wish that the pandemic, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were not a factor in the current narrative. I wish that White Americans had heard the cries of the Black community and players so many times before this year, 2020. Hindsight isn’t just 2020. Hindsight is a lens into the continued unwillingness to see what was right in front of our eyes for hundreds of years.
While Kaepernick was the first in recent years to publicly protest so clearly and purposefully as an athlete, the Black community has been fighting for years. White America ignored virtually all of the protests and public acknowledgement of what has been going on in this country. White America turned a blind eye to the injustice, brutality and even positioned the issues as self inflicted.
The NBA players today took a step in a direction that deserves applause. Today the players did the right thing at the right time. It wasn’t time to wait for an opportunity. It wasn’t time to see what would happen next. It was time to take a stand and show exactly what the latest shooting of Jacob Blake represents to them personally and as a community.
Now, my only question is, do other athletes have the strength to stand together? Do they have the ability to make this type of statement as a collective? The NFL had the perfect opportunity to do this and for four plus years, very few players were wiling to take a stand. They had families to feed and reputations to protect. I don’t know that they understood the power that they have. I hope now that they understand the power that they have in affecting the narrative of Black communities. The time is now to do the right thing. Will we see others find it in their best interest to do the right thing now instead of later? Sports have been wrong for too long. Today, right now, is the right time to do the right thing.
As this story continues to develop, you can follow the most up-to-date happenings on NBA.com.