Sport only serves as an escape from society if you are white.
A long time ago, in 2020, this country was in the midst of what white America has dubbed a “racial awakening.” The fact that you called it that was the only proof anyone needed to realize that it was less of an awakening and more of a contradiction in terms. But still here we are, three years after that “awakening” and everything is running like clockwork again Nancy Pelosi kneels in kente cloth and all the DEI workshops held at your workplace magically fixed hundreds of years of racism.
And if you don’t believe me, both of Sunday’s games were proof that the awakening was just a brief moment of pseudo-accountability that has passed.
In The Bubble, when the NBA had Black Lives Matter on the floor, players had social justice slogans on their uniforms, and Adam Silver allowed — think for a second — black people to kneel because the police love it, shooting at black people, the NBA — and the WNBA — prioritized the humanity of their players. There was even a boycott of a playoff game that brought the entire sports world to a standstill as players finally saw the power they hold. But that was then and that is now. Players don’t get asked as often after games as they think about things outside of 94 feet. It’s like basketball or whatever sport they play is all they should care about. Part-time reporters don’t ask her about Roe v. Wade or if their loved ones are afraid to go to the grocery store like they used to.
On Saturday, the latest evidence that hate and racism are learned behaviors was shown when an 18-year-old white man — yes, a man, not a boy — donned his tactical gear and drove for hours to a black section of Buffalo. NY to kill black people with an assault weapon that has the word “nigger” written on it – 11 of the 13 people he shot were black.
Four teams played two Game 7s on Sunday. The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics were first, followed by the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks. Three of the four head coaches are black, along with the overwhelming majority of those teams’ rosters. However, in Boston – where one of the games was played – over 52 percent of the population is white, according to the latest data census. And over in Phoenix, where the Suns hosted 68 percent of residents are white.
What does that mean?
That a day after Black America was shaken to the core because we now realize that a grocery store on “our side of town” has become the latest place to get killed, only for existing black players from the Celtics, Bucks, Suns and Mavericks had to play a win-or-go home game to reach the conference finals, despite the feelings we all had. And yet no one seemed to care or ask her about it. It was clear that basketball mattered, but not so much black life or black psyche.
Things got worse on Sunday when there was one first report that a gunman had appeared at a black church in Buffalo where the governor, attorney general and other local officials were present. And although the facts of this incident were eventually clarified and rumors debunked, it was a triggering moment for many. Let’s not forget that Charlottesville happened twice. Or that Dylann Roof went to a black church just to do a Bible study. And as much as Republicans want you to remember it, January 6 wasn’t “over the top.” Never forget that Kyle Rittenhouse is a free man.
There have been so many unnerving incidents in recent years that have made black America even more paranoid than we ever were. And while everyone else can move on, we still have to deal with the trauma, even if it doesn’t always show outwardly. So if you ever see us tense up while driving, when we see the police, or wonder why our places of refuge are guarded, or why we tell each other to be careful when someone is going out, even if it’s just about an errand at the store because that’s what we have to do to survive on a daily basis. We can never fully exhale and let go.
And no matter how well Jayson Tatum and Grant Williams played in Boston on Sunday, or how Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie took to the streets in Phoenix, just know they did it, despite what’s happening to people on Saturday is who they look like. Because if you’re a black athlete in America, competing at the highest level as a form of entertainment for the rest of the world, knowing that the majority of the people cheering you on don’t think your life matters, maybe the hardest part of the game you’re working on that a reporter will never ask about.