The NBA has been leading the way when it comes to sports leagues dealing with racial injustice. Last year, NBA teams decided to boycott after the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin. PopCulture.com recently caught up with NBA legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who shared his thoughts on what NBA teams did last year in response to the Blake shooting.
"I was really happy with the fact that they did it in a way that did not embarrass them and get people to think that they're just irrational people with a grudge," Abdul-Jabbar told PopCulture. "They were able to do it in a way that showed, 'Hey, we're not thugs out here. We're protesting a horrible circumstance that has to change,' and I think people are starting to get that."
The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the teams who sat out a playoff game to protest the shooting. It led to other NBA players boycotting as well as NHL and MLB players following suit. Blake was shot by a police officer in August 2020, which was caught on video. The officer, Rusten Sheskey, was one of the few who responded to a woman reporting that her boyfriend was not supposed to be around her. Blake was walking to the driver-side door of the SUV as officers followed him, their guns are drawn and shooting at him. Blake then opened the door while Sheskey grabbed his shirt and opened fire. Blake was left paralyzed, and the incident led to protests in the area.
Before the Blake shooting, the NBA was expressing its response to the Black Lives Matter movement on the courts in Orlando. The majority of teams playing in a bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the league allowed them to have names of Black men and women who were victims of police shootings on the back of their jerseys. Some also had expressions such as "Black Lives Matter," which was also seen on the courts. Abdul-Jabbar said he's not surprised by it since the league has always been active in social justice.
"I think that the NBA really has had a history, its whole existence, of promoting equality and fair play," Abdul-Jabbar said. "When I came into the league, I played on a team that had the very first black General Manager, Wayne Embry, and he was the GM of the Milwaukee Bucks. The fact that he always enabled our players to use their platform, as long as they don't go out there and make a fool of themselves, I'll say something that is patently untrue, and I think the NBA really deserves credit for being able to maintain that balance of giving its players the voice, but not letting them go out there and embarrass themselves. So I think that's worked out pretty well."