Disappointment, frustration, failure: The sports world reacts to Breonna Taylor decision

Liz Roscher
·10 mins read

Athletes have been very outspoken about Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black EMT who was shot in her home by police who were were serving a no-knock warrant. They and many others have repeatedly and publicly demanded that the police who killed her be arrested and charged with murder.

On Wednesday, Jefferson County judge Annie O’Connell announced that former detective Brett Hankison will be charged with multiple counts of wanton endangerment. The other two officers who fired their weapons on the night Taylor was killed, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, were not charged with any crimes.

That news sparked widespread reactions from all corners of the sports world.

NBA world reacts from the bubble

Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone was asked about the decision after their practice on Wednesday, which is when he first heard the news.

“I just put myself in Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend’s shoes,” Malone said. “If I’m in my house, I’m in my apartment or whatever I’m living in and someone breaks into my house at two, three o’clock in the morning, I’m going to feel like [that] somebody should not be there. It’s tragic … We have not gotten that justice, and that’s a shame. Hopefully that will change at some point.”

Malone said that the case makes him think a lot about Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man who died last summer after police in Aurora, Colorado restrained him with a chokehold while he was walking home from a convenience store.

McClain went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital after paramedics injected him with ketamine, according to The New York Times, and died days later.

“When I think of that case and the tragedy of those police officers getting off, it also makes me think a lot closer to home and Elijah McClain and his case in Aurora, Colorado, and how we’re still demanding justice for the police officers in Aurora who were involved in the death of Elijah McClain, and that is still not the case,” Malone said.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green addressed the issue, too.

All of the activism that players have been doing while inside the bubble, he said, isn’t being received widely enough.

“Something was done, but it wasn’t enough. Most guys thought it was definitely not enough, Green said. “It’s a tough one. We’re still trying to make the proper steps ... What happened today wasn’t enough. We felt, and I’m sure most people around the country felt the same.

“Prayers out to her family. We’re still thinking of them, and we’re still seeking justice for them as well as many others. Hopefully this is a step, we need a lot more progress made than what’s happened today.”

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, one of the most outspoken coaches in the league, spoke about it to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater after his team’s workout on Wednesday in the Bay Area.

“It’s just so demoralizing, it’s so discouraging. I just keep thinking about the generation of American kids of any color. Is this the way to live in? … There’s just so much violence and it’s demoralizing when we can’t be accountable or hold anyone to account for it,” Kerr said.

“The really demoralizing thing is we have a really powerful movement that’s happening. We have so many people who care about this country and so many people who want change and believe in equal justice for Black and brown communities, and yet we don’t have it. It’s such a tough hill to climb, but this long history of racism that we have in our country continues, and it continues in the form of this kind of violence, state-sanctioned violence, over and over again that we’re seeing. It’s devastating.”

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts issued a statement on Tuesday night, too.

"Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” she said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.

“Our players and I once again extend our deepest sympathies to her family and we vow to continue working in her honor and to always say her name.”

Celtics, Heat react after Game 4

Both Celtics and Heat players had plenty to say about the decision on Wednesday night after their matchup in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The grand jury announcement, Celtics star Jalen Brown said, was one he had expected for days.

“It’s tough. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised by the verdict,” Brown said. “It’s tough … This society, the way it was built and the way intentions was to never protect and serve people of color initially. When they were gearing up for what was about to happen I knew that the wrong decision was probably being made, but it doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t surprise me at all.

“Until we dismantle or recreate or change this system that we have, it’s going to continue to have victims like Breonna Taylor and others that fall victim to oppression.”

Heat big man Bam Adebayo — who tweaked his wrist in the 112-109 win — said he dedicated the game to Taylor, and that he was trying to channel his anger into the game.

“I just tried to channel my anger toward the game. It’s crazy that somebody killed somebody and we get to the same charge as somebody that uses an unauthorized credit card,” Adebayo said. “I don’t think people rally understand like, she’s dead. Somebody killed her. At the end of the day, you need justice for that. All the other stuff, you need justice for her.”

Jimmy Butler got straight to the point with his reaction when asked.

He’s no different than Taylor or anyone else, and knows what happened to her could easily happen to him.

“It’s always much bigger than basketball, because that can be anybody. That can be me, that can be any African-American,” Butler said. “When you look at it like that, for me, it’s always on my heart because I just think it’s some bullcrap.

“Going into the game, you have to compete, but at the end of the day we’re people first, not just athletes ... I’m no different than anybody else, man. If you didn’t know my name, that could be me. It still could be me, even when people do know my name. That’s what it’s all about, is the fact that we’re all equal. No matter what. No matter the color of our skin. At the end of the day, we’re all equal, and we just need everybody to see it that way.”

Athletes react on social media

Athletes had a lot to say when they found out that none of the officers responsible for Taylor’s death were being charged with homicide.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick joined in on Wednesday night, and slammed what he called the “white supremacist institution of policing” in Louisville and the country.

The back of a WNBA jersey with the name "Breonna Taylor" on it.
Athletes have very strong reactions to the grad jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

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