Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
White owners want pro athletes to shut up and dribble, but players like Kyrie Irving are pushing back.
White owners want pro athletes to shut up and dribble, but players like Kyrie Irving are pushing back.
Illustration: Eric Barrow (AP)

A deadly disease sweeping the land. Armed thugs in the streets keeping order amid an angry populace. An economy on the verge of collapse. At the helm of this once mighty superpower is a depraved, narcissistic megalomaniac who lacks even the most basic skills of governing. His answer to keep the masses mollified: Bring back the games!

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Sound familiar? It’s the plot of the 2000 Oscar-winning film Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe in the titular role for which he also won an Academy Award. Joaquin Phoenix, who honestly out-acted Crowe by a mile, played the insane Emperor Commodus in Oscar-winning director Ridley Scott’s classic. The use of murder as entertainment for the oppressed masses is also a theme in The Hunger Games.

The parallels to today are obvious, and yes, athletes are being asked to risk their lives. You’ll recall that President Trump wanted sports back badly as part of a “return to normalcy” as people were angry over the government’s inability to control the coronavirus. Imagine how much he wants them back now.

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But some athletes are not fooled. Some know what’s really going on.

Kyrie Irving held a Zoom call with about 80 players on Friday night and said he objects to the NBA’s plan to restart the season at Disney World.

“I don’t support going into Orlando,” he reportedly said. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy.”

Not everyone agrees, most notably LeBron James, who has made it clear he wants to continue with the season while still trying to draw attention to the issues at hand.

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Have no doubt, regardless of what you think of the NBA and it’s reputation as a relatively progressive league, it’s still part of the American establishment. It’s a corporation that makes $8 billion a year, despite which, teams were eligible for federal relief. It’s a league full of white billionaire owners, one of them being Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota TImberwolves, who did what rich white people have always done when this country has been faced with anger over injustice: Try to make it quietly go away.

“We’ve had some people that have responded to this tragedy and most of them have done it in a proper way of showing their pain, but some of them have responded by doing some break-ins. We don’t need that. It hurts the community,” said Taylor. “I’m just hopeful that people will just send their message through prayer and silent demonstrations.”

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Silent demonstrations. Colin Kaepernick did silent demonstrations and was vilified.

Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who considered the murdered George Floyd his twin, sees right through this.

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“I love the NBA man,” Jackson said on a video shared on social media. “But now ain’t the time to be playing basketball yo. Playing basketball’s only gonna do one thing: Take all the attention off the task at hand right now, what we fightin’ for. Everybody’s gonna be worried about the playoffs, it’ll be blasted all over the TV and nobody’s gonna be talking about getting justice for all these senseless murders by the police.

“None of these white owners have spoken up. None of them are taking a stand…. Playing basketball ain’t gonna do nothin’ but make them money, and take the attention off what we fightin’ for.”

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But Irving says he is ”willing to give up everything I have (for social reform).”

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Dwight Howard said in a statement that basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction.

Howard said that he would love to win his first championship, but “the unity of my people will be a bigger championship.”

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Kaepernick sacrificed his career. For all the contrition Roger Goodell has shown, he wouldn’t even mention Kaepernick, who still doesn’t have a job.

Protests have gotten some results, far better than what Kaepernick got with his peaceful, solemn gestures. But it’s not enough.

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The killers of Breonna Taylor still have not been arrested. During global protests demanding an end to police brutality, the police have responded with even more brutality. The name of the cop who killed Tony McDade still hasn’t been released. David McAtee was killed by a National Guard member. On Friday night, Rayshard Brooks, another unarmed black man, was killed by police in Atlanta.

No Justice, No Peace. No Justice, No Basketball.

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

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