Tag Archives: Jaylen Brown

The Decision 2: LeBron’s Rejection of NBA’s Attempt at Social Activism

It won’t get nearly the same attention as the tv special, but LeBron James’ rejection of the NBA’s attempt to raise social awareness is the 2020 version of ‘The Decision’. From the moment it was announced the NBA would allow players to replace the names on their jersey’s with messages about social justice we have waited with bated breath to see what they would be.

LeBron Rejects NBA’s Social Activism

 

Speculation met reality when we got the list of approved messages last week. They were about what one would expect, “Black Lives Matter”, “I Can’t Breathe”, “Vote”, etc.

Some players have begun announcing what they have chosen. Milwaukee Bucks forwards Giannis Antetokuonmpo and his brother Thanasis have chosen “EQUALITY” for their message. Others have been a lot less enthusiastic about the whole thing.

Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown was vocal in his displeasure with the league. He said the pre-approved list was an example of the “limitations” the NBA is putting on players.

“I think we should be able to express our struggle a little bit more… I was very disappointed in the list as well… Hopefully, maybe, we can get some more names on that list or some more things to add.” – Jaylen Brown per Masslive.com

The ‘Not’ Heard Around the World

Over the weekend, Shams Charania of the Athletic tweeted out that James had decided against putting one of the messages on his jersey; choosing to stick with his name, ‘James’, instead. Even with all the dissatisfaction from others out there, the backlash was almost instant.

“I actually didn’t go with a name on the back of my jersey,” James said on a video conference call with reporters. “It was no disrespect to the list that was handed out to all the players. I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t really seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal.” – LeBron per Dave McMenamin/ESPN

LeBron’s critics were seemingly waiting for a moment like this. Not too long ago, they ran with his response to Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong. At the time James said Morey spoke on a subject he didn’t know enough about. The detractors were swift to point out James, who is very outspoken on social justice issues, was choosing to side with China. How can he claim to want justice for all while citizens in Hong Kong were being teargassed?

Supporters had a couple of choices of rebuttal. First, James is vocal on issues that affect the Black community, of which he is a member. Second, he is vocal about domestic issues of which he is educated. No matter how sound the counterpoint, though, the vocal naysayers had all the ammo they need.

Gotcha!

It’s not like their charges are without merit. After all, LeBron was leading the charge to restart the NBA; saying players could still fight social injustices on the court. He also has started the “More Than a Vote” initiative and has long had “More Than An Athlete”. The latter is a direct response to those that would prefer athletes to stick to sports; an argument that people only use when they disagree with the athlete.

He even tweeted ‘#FREEWOJ’ in support of ESPN basketball insider Adrian Wojnarowski; who was suspended for replying to a US senator using profanity via e-mail. All that did was invite the ‘#FREEHONGKONG’ replies.

“I would have loved to have a say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey. I had a couple things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. I’m absolutely OK with that. … I don’t need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I’m about and what I’m here to do.” – James per McMenamin/ESPN

Marcus Smart shared similar sentiments, stating “A lot of guys are upset…” with the lack of input players had in the making of the list. But LeBron’s decision still looms as the largest.

Stand For Something…

As current and former teammates, black and white, take the opportunity and use the messages, social justice’s most-vocal advocate in the NBA seemed to punt. It is a relatively new “trend” for LeBron, but some will say his voice shrinks when the money is on the line.

This is a ridiculous argument given all that he has done with the I Promise School and all of his other initiatives, including his production company to give people of color opportunities they otherwise have trouble securing. He has put his own money, face, and words behind these projects.

His actions off the court will forever outweigh anything he has and will do on the court. The optics here aren’t great, nonetheless. Perhaps he has some pre-game attire or a message will be written on his shoes. For many, though, the damage is done. They will call LeBron a hypocrite among other, less-flattering things and say this is akin to Michael Jordan‘s  “Republicans buy sneakers too” comments.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will be holding our breath that they can actually finish the season. Because, again, there is nothing LeBron can do on the court that will outweigh what he has and will do off of it. That includes placing a league-approved message on the back of his jersey.

Sports Can’t Breathe

What a start to the turn of a new decade, 2020 has been relentless. First, the sports world gets shook with a tragic helicopter accident killing nine people including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.  Shortly thereafter the world is hit with a Coronavirus pandemic deemed Covid-19.  An invisible menace that’s had us quarantined for the last three months and has claimed thousands of lives.

Then on Monday, May 25th, 2020 on Memorial Day, a day to celebrate our fallen servicemen and women, a police officer took the life of yet another unarmed black man named George Floyd.  You can say my community’s collective breath was taken away in eight minutes and 46 seconds.  Going into the sixth month of 2020, the second half of this year I’m sure we’re all wondering when will the director say cut!

Sports Can’t Breathe

This Is Supposed to Be About Sports

It took me a week to construct this piece because I was angry, upset, and didn’t want my emotions to completely take over my writing. You see, I’m a black man in my 40s, same as Mr. Floyd, and that could’ve easily been me.   I’ve had my experiences with racial profiling from police and civilians.

To see a video of officers of the law who took an oath to protect and serve the community hold down a human being and kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes watching him die is one of the worse crimes to witness.  The disturbing part is this was the third such incident in a month where a black individual was murdered.  What those cops didn’t know is that George Floyd was good friends with former NBA player Stephen Jackson and he would be the catalyst in leading a global protest for justice.

I understand that this is supposed to be a sports column and I can assure it is.  It will just be a little different approach on this one. Almost four years ago it was in a football stadium, 2016, that former San Francisco 49ers   quarterback Colin Kaepernick exercised his American right to protest.  His peaceful protest was to sit during the national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality of black people.

Even after people saw this as disrespectful to our military, he consulted with a serviceman and changed to more appropriate kneeling.  Players began following Kaepernick in this protest and the message was interrupted by President Trump making this issue about respecting the American flag.  The president even went to the lengths of insulting the players and the mothers of these exceptional athletes by calling them sons of b*****s.

NFL Had a Chance to Take a Stand

The NFL and owners had the opportunity to support its diverse players but instead decided it valued its bottom line more than human life.  In the process exiling Kaepernick from the league who never received another contract offer.  One of the most outspoken owners, Jerry Jones, had plenty to say about that protest in 2016. Fast forward to today, crickets.  Countless mothers and fathers being taken away leaving children without parents with no repercussions just doesn’t seem American.

Now the NFL wants to make statements of support for the black community when it’s convenient and is the right thing to do.  It comes off as disingenuous because it took protesting and rioting on a global scale to finally be heard as a community.  The league and its owners could’ve done like their NBA counterparts and given support when it was uncomfortable to the very people that make this a billion-dollar industry.  We’ve all heard the saying “get out of your comfort zone”.  This is supposed to represent growth within one’s self.  Time to get out of your comfort zones.

How Can Sports Make an Impact

One thing we’ve learned since March 11th, 2020 is how important sports are to our way of life.  We can see that from the most-watched documentary in history, “The Last Dance”.  In this instance, though this issue shouldn’t just be blanketed by the restart of the NBA or any sporting event for that matter.  Instead whenever the NBA starts all the players should refuse to play, same for when the NFL starts.

This stance may not happen but a more feasible impactful statement could.  The NFL taking accountability for the lack of understanding of what Kaepernick’s kneeling protest was bringing attention to.  Second, rectify this by teams offering Colin a contract giving him the opportunity, if he chooses, to exit the game his way.  Lastly, at the start of any sporting event letting the clock run for eight minutes and 46 seconds with no movement and displaying the statement, “I can’t breathe”.

This would serve as a reminder that our country as a whole has a lot of work to do eradicating systemic racism and ensuring equality for all Americans.