Strike back: NBA players fight power with power

Yasmin Duale
·4 mins read

It seems as though all these players in pseudo-isolation have reached a boiling point.

Many, including myself, were reluctantly impressed by the efficiency and organization of the Disney bubble experiment. Players engaged in poised and poignant post-game interviews, oftentimes refusing to discuss the results of the game and instead using their moment on national or local television to bring awareness to police brutality, as well as the importance of voting access and registration. But, as it often goes with state-sanctioned violence, it simply does not end with the latest viral incident.

With every scroll through social media, Black NBA players visibly and audibly demonstrated the repeated traumas of viewing those that look like them maimed and killed in broad daylight by the civil servants sworn to serve and protect. The debilitating exhaustion sometimes brought on by trauma, coupled with the isolation of being confined to the Disney campus, was bound to result in the impulsive, inspiring and radical move triggered by Bucks guard George Hill just moments prior to the scheduled matchup.

The back and forths between players and media have become less mildly humorous in their mundanity, and more mildly hostile in their essence. Athletes have begun to engage with those throwing questions and digging for potential stories in ways akin to a fourth wall being broken. In a way that seems to have them begging to be seen as not a man performing on the court, playing a game that’s etched into the fibre of his muscles, but a man wanting for himself and those he loves to remain safe and alive. There is a frustration in the feelings of helplessness or guilt being experienced that might be further exacerbated by the isolation, best expressed by Hill when he told The Undefeated,“We shouldn’t be playing with all that’s going on. We’re down here for money purposes only. These games are only overshadowing what is really going on.”

George Hill and the Milwaukee Bucks set off a league-wide strike on Wednesday. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
George Hill and the Milwaukee Bucks set off a league-wide strike on Wednesday. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Hours after the forfeit by the Bucks, present players convened at 8 p.m. to discuss the next steps forward. What followed was a plethora of insider scoops sent to media personnel directly from those present in the hall. Much of it conflicting information, virtually none of it illuminating. What bloomed as the single, consistent notion was the need for team ownership to do more to enact both financial support and legislative lobbying in order to assist with what individual players felt was impossible to accomplish alone. Interestingly enough, this strike occurred amidst a story that Philadelphia 76ers majority owner Josh Harris has been seeking to greenlight the construction of a new arena at Penn’s Landing by courting local officials to fund the project using a future tax revenue program.

Such a program utilizes taxpayer money to support the development of projects within a specified area. Team ownership regularly courts the local, political power afforded to them by their riches to strong-arm passion projects into fruition, so why can’t players leverage the value they possess as profitable performers to demand the same prioritization of their livelihoods? This is the kind of question a strike and subsequent negotiations can potentially answer. Perhaps players have realized that they may need to speak in a language that 1 percent of the 1 percent can understand. The next step for the unionized employees of the league is to remind the dangerously powerful that their jersey-clad investments do not feel safe, and that it is affecting the potential of their productivity — owners like the Devos family, Steve Ballmer and James Dolan. Despite word on Thursday that the playoffs are set to commence, it's hard to argue that this small act of disobedience did not clearly convey their thoughts.

Judging by the conflicting reports on an alleged vote held during Wednesday’s meeting, players aren’t exactly sure about the concept of scrapping the entirety of the postseason, citing reasonable concerns regarding the CBA and expected dips in revenue. Most of the NBA's performing labour force has decided that it is in all their best interests to complete the league calendar, though there is a freshened demand to expect more from not only themselves, but those in their orbit.

What they decide next in how the season is set to commence will have a lasting impact on sports history. Once it's all set and done, the resumption of the league will be touted as an experiment of epic proportions, where lives were essentially the gambling chips. Now players may decide to try a hand at their own gamble, but the only thing truly at stake are some pockets high up.

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