The NBA’s Black Power / Photo: Milwaukee Bucks star and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokoumpos joined protests in Milwaukee, June 6, 2020.
Black NBA players, writes Ann Garrison, are just beginning to understand the power of the attention and admiration they command.
“All the basketball arenas owned by NBA teams will be turned into polling stations prior and up through the November 3 election.”
On August 26, the third day of the Republican Convention and two days after a Kenosha, Wisconsin cop fired seven bullets into the back of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play. Then the rest of the NBA players, at least 75% of whom are Black, chose to go on strike as well and the National Basketball Association halted the NBA playoffs. As Counterpunch’s Nat St. Clair noted on Twitter, they kicked the Republicans out of center court and into the parking lot.
Barack Obama and Michael Jordan then met with LeBron James and other high profile players and convinced them to get back to work after a few victories with management. Most notably, all the basketball arenas owned by NBA teams will be turned into polling stations prior and up through the November 3 election. Cynics say that Obama co-opted the NBA’s activism into a Democratic Party get-out-the-vote campaign, but LeBron James and other players had already formed a non-profit that is currently focused on defending African American voting rights. In the swing state of Florida, they had already offered $100,000 to pay the fines of convicted felons who’ve done their time but would otherwise be unable to vote.
“Cynics say that Obama co-opted the NBA’s activism.”
Who knows what the players might do next, as they realize the power of the attention and admiration they command? They may even make as much effort to end African American, LatinX, and student voter suppression that took place in this year's Democratic primaries, helping to make Joe Biden the Democrats' weak, so-called choice.
(Yes, African American voters turned out heavily for Biden in South Carolina, and in Michigan, most notably in Detroit, and maybe that was enough to power Biden’s improbable Lazarus-like resurrection at the polls, but I doubt it and I’m not the only one. Either way let’s hope the players will battle voter suppression, which is above all African American voter suppression, in the primaries as well as the general election from hereon.)
They might also add “Black Homes Matter” to “Black Lives Matter,” as millions of disproportionately Black renters and homeowners face eviction not through any fault of their own but because oligarchy is using the coronavirus pandemic to further consolidate power and wealth, including real estate equity.
Maybe they’ll even take on Nike and the other sports apparel manufacturers for their notorious exploitation of sweatshop labor in Indonesia, Asia, Central America, or wherever the rate of exploitation is highest at any given time. Who else is Nike going to ask to endorse their snazzy sneakers?
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann(at)anngarrison.com
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