Does the NBA Really Want Change or Just a Day Off?

By Jim Glennon  |   Sep 3, 2020

The Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA decided to boycott their playoff game against the Orlando Magic last week in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man shot by a white officer in Kenosha, Wis. three days before.

“Some things are bigger than basketball.” said Alex Lasry, senior VP of the Bucks showing support and solidarity with his players.

While the shooting of Jacob Blake captured on video is disturbing—any shooting is—the complete facts have still not been released. The investigation is ongoing.

This lack of complete truth, however, has not stopped the rioting, looting, theft, arsons and violence. Nor has it deterred the NBA teams that followed the Bucks from boycotting playoff games and accusing the entire police profession of being violently and murderously racist.

What Exactly is Being Protested?

While the result of the ongoing investigation may show the police acted unreasonably or even criminally, it may also show that their use of force was completely justified.

As of now, we do know that the police didn’t resort to deadly force immediately. In fact, they used less-than-lethal options, a taser and physical control tactics first. They did this to avoid deadly force, but according to witnesses and at least two videos, those efforts proved futile.

One witness said he heard the police order Jacob Blake to drop a knife before he broke away from the officers and ran towards his car. When he opened the driver’s door, despite officers attempting to pull him away, he dove in headfirst. That is when he was shot.

He survived but is reported to be paralyzed.

Court records reveal that on the day of the incident there was an active arrest warrant out on Mr. Blake apparently related to charges of sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct from a domestic situation in July.

It appears this is why the officers were attempting to take control of him and place him under arrest; an arrest Blake resisted with some level of force.

But I have no idea what the totality of the circumstances are in regard to the Kenosha Police/Jacob Blake interaction. Neither do the members of the National Basketball Association.

“Some things are bigger than basketball”

Despite the lack of complete information, the NBA is taking a moral stand. They are angry. Their anger, I believe, is authentic. They want to stop the deaths of African Americans at the hands of the police; deaths they believe—contrary to statistical reality—that are of epidemic proportions.

They want to save black lives and are so committed to that mission, they’re willing to take a day off from playing basketball to prove their determination…to prove they are paying attention to the taking of black lives.

But are they?

As of this writing, homicides in Milwaukee, the city where the Bucks reside, are up over 100% so far this year.

100%!

75% of the victims are African Americans.

On July 6th the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel featured a headline, Halfway through 2020, Milwaukee homicide rate is highest it’s been since the early 1990s.

From the article, “The numbers are so alarming that Mayor Tom Barrett publicly pleaded for peace…”

Apparently, the NBA players missed those headlines and are unaware of the violence going on all around them. They haven’t protested about those murders. They’ve done nothing to call attention to or stop those tragic deaths.

So, it appears as though black lives matter to the NBA only if a white police officer fires the shot causing the death. Not if black children are being gunned down by other citizens just blocks away from the secured arena, protected by police officers, where they play their games and make millions of dollars.

Why?

You’d have to ask them. But social media may have something to do with it. Taking a stand publicly against murders of children in neighborhoods opens up a Pandora’s box of sorts. Looking for root causes of such violence is a dicey subject. They do the same when it comes to their billion-dollar partnership with China, perhaps the world’s leading regime when it come to the merciless subjugation and murder of its citizens.

Earning social justice influence – “capital” if you will –  is a serious motivator in today’s society. These players easily earn that capital by delaying a playoff game in the name of justice.

But do they really care about saving black lives? Do they care about the carnage in the black community within arm’s reach of the arena in which they play?

250 vs. 7,500

The leading cause of death in too many impoverished African American communities is homicide. Which is not at the hands of the police.

There are over 800,000 police officers employed by roughly 18,000 agencies in the country. They interact with citizens over 300,000,000 times a year in the United States.

In 2019, law enforcement officers shot and killed approximately 13 unarmed black males across the country. In the Kenosha case it appears as though Mr. Blake was not unarmed. He had a knife and could have, if the knife was in his possession, turned around and stabbed the officer trying to control him faster than LeBron James could turn around and hit a jump shot.

Approximately 250 African Americans were shot and killed by police officers, annually, between 2015-2019.

250! And most of those shootings were justified and necessary.

In 2019, of all the murders in the United States, over 7,500 of the victims were black! 7,500 is more than 50% of all the homicide victims in the entire country even though African Americans represent only 13% of the population.

As a recap: Approximately 250 African Americans were killed by police (most legally justified) vs. 7,500 murdered. 250 is 3% of 7,500.

While one bad shooting by a police officer is one too many, the numbers in comparison should be examined if saving black lives truly is the goal. The Baltimore Sun ran a piece in April, Homicide is a ‘devastating plague’ on black communities, and it is time we stop ignoring it.

Calibre Press teaches officers how to avoid uses of force that are, in fact, avoidable. For decades we have shown videos of police officers making mistakes, using poor judgement, utilizing ineffective tactics. Our purpose? To learn from those missteps and save both officer and citizen lives.

The only way to do that is to focus on reality and address the true systemic failings in law enforcement. Which is that police officers are poorly trained in most agencies. Tactics aren’t discussed or practiced enough. And the realities of how acute stress impacts decision making is ignored.  

Why those failures?

Not enough manpower. Not enough money. Dysfunctional focus on the part of many administrations and politicians. Avoiding liability rather than chasing success and becoming proficient in tactics takes a back seat to bureaucratic priorities.

Change needs to happen!

Another thing that Alex Lasry said about the protests and the choice of the NBA stars’ decision to sit out was, “The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen.”

So, I have a suggestion for the professional athletes who are protesting and are wanting to make changes that will benefit the African American community. Start with the harsh reality of what is happening in the communities impacted by violence.

Give up your California mansions and move into those dangerous neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Be an ever-present example for these kids. Show them what success is and how to achieve it.

I doubt many, if any of the Milwaukee Bucks actually live full time, year-round in Milwaukee. If they do, they don’t reside in the neighborhoods most impacted by violence and crime.

Invest in those communities financially. Invest in them personally. Sit on your front porch and be an outspoken, approachable positive influence. Explain how violence is not the answer. Spend your off season coaching and mentoring them. Afford them the opportunities they may not be getting now.

Start charity organizations that can be run by the people in the neighborhoods with you playing an integral part. Make that your job when you’re not playing basketball for millions of dollars. Use those millions to pay those willing to put in the effort. Show them that effort is worth it.

Or you can just take an extra day off, call it a protest, play the game tomorrow and still get paid.

Ask yourself a question NBA players: Are you serious?

Let’s see.

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.