Here is a new addition to my collection of Quotes I Love.
20200825 TorStar story by Doug, “After the Jacob Blake shooting, some Raptors wonder if the NBA needs to send an even stronger message” (excerpt)
Bang, bang, bang.
Seven shots fired by a cop into the back of an unarmed Black man, another gruesome and saddening, maddening, incomprehensible video to digest.
This time in Kenosha, Wisc. This time the victim was Jacob Blake.
This time. Until there’s a next time.
More of the same sickening reality.
And professional basketball players — fathers and husbands and sons — left to lay bare their feelings and explain the unexplainable, to fight a tiring but vital fight.
“Coming down here and making the choice to play was supposed to not be in vain, but it’s just starting to feel like everything we’re doing is just going through the motions and nothing’s really changing. And here we are again with another unfortunate incident,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said Tuesday afternoon in an impassioned discussion with the media from the NBA’s Florida bubble.
“So my thoughts today are with that man and his family, and just trying to wrap my mind around what they’re going through today.”
The sense from listening to VanVleet and Norm Powell and coach Nick Nurse, and reading the comments of other NBAers in the wake of Sunday’s shooting, was hard to really define. It was an extraordinary 40 minutes spent with the Raptors.
“I’m pretty tired and sick to my stomach to have to sit up here and talk about this again, and continue this long fight that we’ve been fighting since day one, you know, of slavery, being brought over to America, and having to fight for our rights and our freedom to live a life that is promised to everybody,” Powell said.
“I think everybody’s at the point (where) sitting up here and saying Black Lives Matter — and sitting up having discussions and Zoom calls and this, that and the other, putting apparel on — that’s not getting the job done,” Powell said. “Taking the knee for the anthem, that’s not getting the job done. It’s starting to get washed out. I feel like Black Lives Matter is just another part of conversation now because you see it so much. It’s everywhere.
“It’s kind of getting to the point where I see Black Lives Matter and it’s an everyday thing … something has to happen, to (get to) where you’re forcing those people who can effect and make the change to do something.”
It was frustration. And anger. And resolve. And confusion.
“You can’t really make sense of it. I mean, you can, but it’s not the most logical thing in the world for people to be getting killed because of their skin colour,” VanVleet said. “The situation itself, it’s tough a little bit. You get a little survivor’s remorse. You feel a little guilty. That’s just natural as somebody who lives a very privileged and blessed life.
“Obviously, I worked to be here, don’t get me wrong, but because I make millions of dollars doesn’t make me (worth any more) than anyone else. So you feel guilty sometimes, and that’s normal, and you try to use your platform and your reach and your resources to contribute to other people’s lives and making their lives better, and that’s about as much as you can do in the moment.”
A large part of the reason why NBA players agreed with the league’s plan to restart the season on a sanitized campus near Orlando was because of the platform it would provide the players to make statements about police brutality, systemic racism and a host of other social ills that plague society today — mainly in the United States, but also worldwide.
They have done that, and still were shocked to their core by the video they saw Sunday of Blake being shot.
The question now is: What’s next?
“Everybody knows where we stand, but what’s next?” Powell said. “Because this is still happening, and so how do we force the hand?
“So until somebody does something truly dramatic and kind of goes Black Panther, and carries your own arms and fights back with the police and things like that, nothing’s going to change. And then, if we do that, there’s another narrative where now there’s a reason why we’re viewed that way, because we’re taking the ‘by any means necessary’ route, that we’re going to protect ours if they’re not going to protect us.
“And if we go and fight back, then we’re going to have another issue on our hands. And now how do we resolve this in the right way to force those lawmakers … to put the rules and laws in place that prevent this from happening.”
All of this comes against a sporting backdrop locally that should be much anticipated and dissected, but the last thing anyone wanted to talk or think about was Thursday’s opening game of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Boston Celtics.
“I don’t really care about that right now, to be honest with you,” VanVleet said. “I’m sure Thursday comes and I’ll be able to lock in; basketball’s not really that hard for me.
“When we get to that point — if we get to that point — then we’ll deal with that when it comes. Right now, today, on Tuesday, I couldn’t care less.”