For NBA players, coaches, reporters, and staff, the bubble in Orlando did its job in protecting them from COVID-19. But the bubble cannot shield them from the heartbreaking and jarring realities of racism going on in this country, and they cannot be expected to simply “shut up and dribble” or not be affected by the issues plaguing society during the playoffs. Some have chosen antiracist messages to wear on the back of their jerseys, and many have addressed police brutality in press conferences, but after a Kentucky grand jury announced the gut-wrenching decision in Breonna Taylor’s case, their messages were amplified and their pain was felt.
On Sept. 23, it was announced that one of the three officers who shot and killed 26-year-old Taylor would be charged, and with zero charges in relation to her death. Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. With protesters on the ground in Louisville and the public immediately reacting to the unjust decision, the players and reporters in the bubble used their platforms to speak to fans about what they were going through emotionally.
Following game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, NBA reporter Malika Andrews spoke on behalf of the players, and it’s impossible to not hear the pain and strength in her voice. “This is about the players and their response, but it’s been hard for them. This is something that they fought for the entire time they’ve been down here and they were hoping for a different outcome,” Andrews told Scott Van Pelt. “My job here is to objectively cover the truth and to share what these players are going through, and today what they’re going through is that they’re hurting.”
“It is very hard to continue to go to work.”
She continued, “I have prided myself in being able to be objective and cover these sorts of issues, but when it is so clear that the system of objectivity in journalism is so whitewashed and doesn’t account for the fact that when I am walking up The Hill, my wonderful producer Melinda reminds me that Breonna Taylor was 26 and I am 25, and that could’ve been me. It is very hard to continue to go to work and that’s what these players were feeling.”
The decision in Taylor’s case is devastating and the predominantly Black league will continue its fight against racism. Before cutting to a commercial during halftime, Jalen Rose spoke about Miami’s Tyler Herro’s performance and then said with fervor, “but it’d also be a great day to arrest the cops that murdered Breonna Taylor.” Stephen A. Smith also spoke out, dedicating a portion of his SportsCenter segment to discuss the decision. “So, if you happen to watch the game tonight and you witness tears trickling down the face of one of these NBA players, take a moment to understand the tears they shed, the pain in their eyes are not just for themselves, it’s for the lives everyone sees but don’t appear to care too much about,” Smith said.
Watch the emotional clips ahead, and find out what you can do to take action following the heartbreaking Breonna Taylor decision here.
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