Twelve years ago, an Illinois senator spoke words that resonate more today than they did on the 2008 presidential campaign trail from which he spoke.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time,” Barack Obama told a motivated crowd one February night. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
On Wednesday, those words were emblazoned on George Hill’s T-shirt as he informed the world he and his NBA cohorts are sick and tired of waiting.
What started with Hill and the Milwaukee Bucks boycotting their playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday afternoon, ended with the entire NBA playoff schedule – including Game 5 of the tied Rockets-Thunder series – screeching to a halt, five MLS matches being called off and three games being scratched in both Major League Baseball and the WNBA.
PLAYERS TAKE A STAND: Rockets-Thunder playoff game called off
Now, it’s time for the entire NBA to go one step further: Pop this bubble in Florida, cancel the season and go home to organize and demand more change.
If not now, then when?
Three months ago, George Floyd had his life snuffed out when a police officer – who, at best, is bad at his job – took a knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Athletes and celebrities took to the streets shoulder-to-shoulder with everyday people and protested that injustice. When NBA players returned to action, they took a knee during the national anthem, wore Black Lives Matter shirts and put slogans on their jerseys.
On Sunday, a Kenosha, Wis., police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times.
“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said a day before the league-wide strike.
That summed up the despair NBA players are feeling and the mood in a meeting late Wednesday night where it’s reported the Lakers and Clippers both said they’re ready to go home and end this whole thing. The players are going to meet again Thursday to see where they go from here.
PROTESTS EXTEND TO TV: Kenny Smith walks off ‘Inside the NBA’ in support of players
As the Bucks remained in their locker room Wednesday, they got on a Zoom call with Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes, who encouraged the players to “push for action at every level of government.”
At the very least, the players need some sort of concrete plan. No more settling for slogans. No more charitable donations. They need an audience with difference-makers. They need to connect with local organizers who already have designed initiatives that can affect change in their communities, and could use the NBA sway to get those plans more traction.
And, when they do go home, they don’t go home and settle back into their pre-pandemic lives. They take the passion that stirred deep inside them this week and pour that energy into their community.
Our country is ripe with cynics, and they’ll tell you what happened Wednesday and what’s to come is a waste of time.
They’ll tell you these boycotts and cancellations can’t do any good.
There’s a part of this country that will pick through a victim’s past or find any way to justify what a shocked world saw on video with their own eyes.
Don’t listen to those people. They’re not here to nurture a better society. They’re determined to walk through life with their eyelids squeezed comically tightly closed and their hands over their ears.
We all can help salvage something from a craptastic 2020 by walking away from that nonsense, and the most talented basketball players in the world can do even more by walking away completely.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
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