Jacob Blake ruling has LeBron James frustrated

Mark Medina   | USA TODAY In between helping the Los Angeles Lakers win an NBA championship. LeBron James spent his energy on the NBA...


Mark Medina
 
| USA TODAY

In between helping the Los Angeles Lakers win an NBA championship. LeBron James spent his energy on the NBA’s quarantined campus speaking out on systemic racism.

So imagine James’ feelings when Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced that no charges would be filed against the police officer that shot Jacob Blake, a Black person who was then left paralyzed.

“To hear what happened in Kenosha today was a blow to the heart and to the gut,” James said following the Lakers’ 94-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. “Not only to that community, but to us and to every Black person that has been a part of this process and seeing these outcomes for so long. Not only in the Black community, but in the white community as well who see moments like this happen.”

The NBA restarted the season last summer partly to salvage its television revenue during the pandemic and partly to use that platform to address systemic racism. Then, players and coaches routinely spoke out against recent cases of police officers killing unarmed Black people, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Teams and players also launched varying voting and community programs aimed to reduce racial inequality.

“It sucks. We as a community tried to support the family and do everything we can to get justice for him,” Lakers forward Anthony Davis said. “For that to happen, it sucks for us. It feels like we let the family down.”

For James, he took on a heightened role both because of his star power and his initiatives. He also launched “More Than A Vote,” an organization that reduces voting suppression and increased voting turnout in the Black community.

“It’s a blow to our community once again,” James said. “We’ve been here before. It sucks. We feel sorry for his family and that community itself. We want better. We believe we can get that.”

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The NBA’s players believed the same thing after the Milwaukee Bucks walked out on their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic after video showed police officers shooting Blake seven times in front of his family. The Bucks had conference calls with local politicians in hopes to enact police reforms. Following a passionate discussion among players about whether they should resume or cancel the rest of the season, James spoke with President Barack Obama, who urged them to keep its platform intact.

Then, the National Basketball Players Association received more commitments from the NBA. They pledged to have each teams’ arena or practice facility open as a voting site before and on Election Day, a commitment 23 out of 30 NBA teams fulfilled. The NBA’s Board of Governors and NBPA also formed the NBA Foundation with an initial $300 million contribution “dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.” Teams have pledged to donate $30 million each year to the foundation for the next 10 years.

No wonder Lakers forward Wesley Matthews considered Tuesday’s ruling to be “truly disheartening, especially with all the work everybody had put in.”

“We can’t lose our heads. We can’t start rioting. We have to be calculated. We have to continue to keep our foot on the gas,” said Matthews, who played with the Bucks last season when they staged the walkout. “The flame is already lit. It just has to continue to keep burning and burning the right way. Not where anything can be sidetracked; not where we’re damaging anything so that all the media attention can go to look at what is happening over here. Look at the facts and let’s address the issues head on.”

Still, the NBA and NBPA tried to address these issues already.

The NBA and NBPA formed a social justice coalition consisting of players, coaches and owners to promote civic engagement and advocate for police and criminal justice reform. The NBPA also hoped teams could leverage relationships with local and state officials with passing legislation aimed at these issues.

“I’m sure and am very confident that (owner) Marc Lasry and the Milwaukee Bucks are doing their due diligence right now, especially with it happening in their own backyard,” Matthews said. “I’m very confident in that. It really is just tough. It really is disheartening. But leaders have to be leaders. Everybody has to take ownership in their own community. It can’t just be those that have the platform. It’s got to be everybody.”

The Bucks released a statement on Tuesday, saying, the organization “remains firmly against excessive use of force by law enforcement.” Graveley defended the police officers’ reaction, saying it was “incontrovertible” that Blake was armed with “a razor blade-type knife” when he was shot seven times.

“Reoccurring instances of excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging the Black community must stop,” the Bucks’ statement read. “We will continue to work to enact policy change so these incidents no longer exist. As an organization, we remain strongly committed to address issues of social injustice and anti-racism and to make meaningful change for African Americans and all marginalized members of our community.”

James vowed to remain just as committed.

“More than a Vote” partnered with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to recruit 40,000 poll workers and helped register Florida voters with felony records so long as they were unrelated to murder or sexual assault. It also oversaw voting turnout initiatives for the Georgia runoff elections held on Tuesday. And James added, “we’re not going to stop; we’re always looking for opportunities to continue to grow not only in my community, but all over the world.”

“The best thing we were able to do in the bubble is we were able to stand together in strength and numbers with everything that was going on in America and everything that was going wrong in America,” James said. “We were able to voice those opinions and voice those facts every single day. I hope to continue that now being outside the bubble.”

Mathews said the Lakers did not have “a formal discussion” about Tuesday’s ruling before their game. But after speaking for only 84 seconds about the Lakers’ win over the Grizzlies, James spoke for seven minutes about various social justice causes. James plans to speak out more regardless of any backlash he receives and any frustrated feelings he has regarding Tuesday’s ruling.

“It’s unfortunate we have some people out there that would rather see hate than love,” James said. “It’s something we won’t ever be able to change. That’s how life is built unfortunately. But if we can get the majority on one side and on the side of love than hate, we can do some special things.”

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Newsrust: Jacob Blake ruling has LeBron James frustrated
Jacob Blake ruling has LeBron James frustrated
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