By Michael Kinney
In a year that has seen more than its fair share of historic days already, the NBA added another one to it Wednesday. Every postseason game that was scheduled to take place was postponed after threats of boycotts from several teams after Wisconsin police officers shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, seven times in front of his children.
“The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – Bucks vs. Magic, Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers – have been postponed,” the NBA said in a statement.
Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled.
The players then scheduled a meeting for later on in the evening to discuss what they should do now. Several options were on the table, including boycotting the rest of the postseason and leaving the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
There are many who believe the best way to send a message is to hit the rich and powerful in their wallets and bank accounts and hope that leads to change in the political and judicial system.
The sight of James Harden, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo sitting out games as a way to protests will definitely catch attention. It already caused one trickle-down effect as the entire WNBA and some MLB teams also boycotted games Wednesday as well.
The stunning move has led to conversations in the media and at homes abut why the boycotts were happening. That is always a good thing, but it’s not new.
But in the long run, if they decided to stop playing today, they would be ceding the biggest weapon they have in the battle against racial and social injustice. That is the stage the NBA playoffs has given them.
Every night that the postseason continues players can get their message out to the public. And that message should be, ‘Get out and vote.’
Throughout the NBA bubble, a few players like Paul have brought up the need for people to go vote and fight voter suppression.
“I was talking to Darius Bazley, one of my teammates, about voting the other day so understanding how powerful our voice is to get people to get out and vote,” Paul said last week. “These kids watch our game. They want to buy our shoes. They want to do all this different type stuff. So we have to really start to use our influence to make sure that they understand the importance of voting and how suppression of the vote is rigged.”
But that’s not enough. That should have been the only message coming out of the NBA bubble from every player. And after the events of the past few days, that message should have been amplified even more.
They have a chance to talk through the media about national and local elections. Put as much emphasis on voting for city council members and sheriffs as you do the presidents. But at the end of the day, get out and vote.
Because it’s not the NBA owners who have failed to arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor. It’s not television executives who keep rehiring police officers with a history of police brutality. Neither is allowing inner cities to turn into food deserts.
The people who need to feel the pressure are the district attorney, the sheriff, the chief of police, mayors, members of Congress, members of the city council and the President. They feel the heat at the ballot box.
If the NBA players decide to boycott the rest of the postseason and leave the bubble, their power to influence diminishes each day. They no longer have the stage to themselves. And every day that they are not in front of the camera or microphone, fans pay less and less attention. That has been proven over and over again with other protests.
I know telling someone to go vote doesn’t sound as militant or aggressive as a boycott. I get the attraction to boycotting and I think it has its place in many circumstances.
But right now, at this moment, the NBA players have the entire world watching them. They have the power to influence the masses to actually use the system to their advantage and take a vested interest in who is actually making and enforcing the laws that allow unarmed black men and women to be shot and killed at an astonishing rate compared to other groups.
It’s a simple message that I hope to hear over and over the rest of the postseason: Get out and Vote.