The last 24 hours or so have been unprecedented for the NBA.
The players decided to sit out yesterday’s playoff games, which has since been extended to today, as the Clippers’ Game 6 has been postponed. There were rumblings that the season itself was in jeopardy while players continued to process the shooting of Jacob Blake, the inaction of the Wisconsin state legislature, and the ever-present fear of being Black in America.
Landry Shamet spoke with his former teammate J.J. Redick on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast about the events in Kenosha, Wisconsin; what the past few day has been like; and how the league will proceed from here.
Shamet said watching the video of Blake being shot seven times in the back gave him a trembling feeling in his chest and an overall sense of helplessness, and he understands why the Bucks made the “bold” decision to sit out of Wednesday’s game.
“The biggest thing with continually seeing these things is like a numbness,” Shamet said. “It’s like clouds following you. You don’t feel right. It’s upsetting, it’s unnerving.”
What remains disappointing for Shamet, and for Redick, is that the NBA appeared to come into the restart with the right intentions about supporting social justice, but nothing has really been accomplished. Breonna Taylor’s killers remain uncharged, and instead of politicians being forced to account for police brutality and other elements of racism in society, the responsibility still falls on Black athletes to speak up.
Shamet spoke with with a friend of his in Major League Baseball, who said these issues aren’t as prevalent in that league because of the low percentage of Black players. But Shamet wants these social movements to propel all people to fight for justice instead of merely those who have been oppressed.
“It’s a blessing and a curse. We have so much power and attention, and all eyes are on us right now. Why are we answering questions that a lot of CEOs and executives and higher up people aren’t even getting asked? Why is it all falling on us, the Black athlete?”
Like many others, Shamet isn’t sure what the best thing to do is. The players elected to sit out games Wednesday, and the Clippers and the Lakers even voted to cancel the rest of the season. But Shamet says that emotions were high after the players meeting, and he could barely process what had happened until he went to sleep. He still isn’t really sure how the players are leaning regarding playing out the postseason.
“To be honest i didn’t really know... There’s so many different teams, and you put that many people in one room, there’s gonna be different perspectives. That’s a blessing and benefit of having these conversations. And to be fair, that vote wasn’t us saying we don’t want to play basketball. It was just simply a poll of what we thought was best to do, and that’s what came out of our team. And to be honest, I felt like and still feel like maybe there’s more people that kind of might have felt that way. But given the setting and the amount of peers around, you might not have been as blunt and open.”
It appears the league will finish the season, if on a slight delay, but Shamet made it clear that the players will continue to use their voices. They have a platform to use, and it may be confusing to decide what to do, but they are not going to sit out this moment in history.
“One of the things [Doc] says is he hates when people say, ‘well, I don’t involve myself with politics. He says, ‘Well, you bet your ass that politics will involve you’... Ultimately, basketball makes everyone here happy, that’s what we want to do, but when there’s an opportunity to speak on something that we’re passionate about, and right now there’s a lot of that, we continue to take those opportunities.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s incredibly honoring to be able to be a part of history. This has the whole world’s eyes on us right now, and I think it’s just important to try to continue to capitalize on that.”
Whether or not the players get back to basketball, they clearly are not finished using their platforms to push for social change. As Shamet said, it shouldn’t fall on them alone, but credit to the players for taking a stand.