LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – The Toronto Raptors held a pre-practice team meeting on Tuesday to discuss how they could respond to police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, including potentially not playing against the Boston Celtics in Game 1. of a second round playoff on Thursday.
“We knew coming here or not coming here wouldn’t stop anything, but I think ultimately playing or not playing puts pressure on someone,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said after training on Tuesday. “So, for example, this happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, if I’m right? It would be nice if, in a perfect world, we all said we’re not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks – he’s going If he gets up to the pot and puts pressure about the district attorney’s office, the state attorney, the governors and the politicians there to make a real change and get some justice.
“I know it’s not that simple. But, at the end of the day, if we sit here and talk about how to make changes, at some point we’ll have to put our balls on the line and actually put something to lose, rather than just money or visibility. . I just got over the media aspect. It’s sensational, we talk about it every day, it’s all we see, but it seems like a great peacemaker. “
Blake, a black man, was shot by police on Sunday as he tried to enter the driver’s door of his vehicle. The officers were responding to a domestic disturbance. Blake’s father, also called Jacob Blake, told ABC News that he was told his son has been shot eight times and is paralyzed from the waist down. Doctors don’t know if the paralysis will be permanent.
VanVleet said Tuesday that many potential options for how the Raptors might make a statement have been discussed by the team, but he declined to go into details.
“I’ll keep him on our team,” VanVleet said. “We’re dealing with it in real time, and I think it affects everyone differently. It’s pretty cool in my mind, and I’m sitting in front of a camera, so I’m just talking as I go. But, yes, there are a lot of different things. we discussed. “
Celtics manager Brad Stevens said a similar meeting took place in Boston on Tuesday. And while Stevens said no one had specifically told him they didn’t want to play, he could see the impact Blake’s shooting had had on his team.
“Obviously our thoughts go out to Jacob Blake and his family,” Stevens said. “And, of course, that video was horrible. That video was horrible. And thinking about three kids in that car is like … it just makes you shake, right? It’s ridiculous. We didn’t necessarily talk about it … We talked about it as a team and how we feel We haven’t talked enough about it, but obviously everyone is shaken.
“There is a reason why the guys, the coaches, the players, everyone here has chosen to really emphasize social justice and racial equality while we’re here. To think this happens again … I thought LeBron [James’] the words were touching last night. Those aren’t … I’ve heard them over and over.
“I’ve said this before, I can’t pretend I understand what it’s like because I don’t know what it’s like. But I know I’ve heard it over and over again. So there’s obviously a problem. So I totally understand everyone’s emotions here and elsewhere, in this regard “.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart said that while the team didn’t speak specifically about the boycott, they clearly need to go beyond the things they did inside the bubble – from wearing “Black Lives Matter” shirts to virtually every player. NBA kneeling for the national anthem before each game to the words being painted on each of the fields used here – to try and enact the change everyone wants to see happen.
“We tried to be peaceful, on our knees, we tried to protest,” said Smart. “And for us, we’ve been trying to come here and be together, play this game and try to make our voices heard. But it doesn’t work, so obviously something needs to be done. Right now, our focus shouldn’t really be. I understand be it the playoffs and all, but we still have a bigger underlying problem going on and the things we tried haven’t worked out so we absolutely have to take a different approach and we absolutely need to try new things to make this thing work in the way we know it should and make our voices heard even more. “
Regardless of whether both teams ultimately choose to play or not, the anger and frustration of both members was palpable on Tuesday, as has been happening throughout the NBA for the past two days here in the bubble, for what happened. . All four of the players who spoke on Tuesday – VanVleet and Raptors guard Norman Powell, Smart and Celtics striker Jaylen Brown – spoke out on the issues of racial inequality and social justice, and all were visibly upset by having to talk about this event. again.
“At some point, like, we’re always the ones with the mics in their faces,” VanVleet said. “We’re always the ones who have to take a stand. But, like, we’re the oppressed, and the responsibility falls on us to make a change to stop being oppressed, you know what I’m saying? It boils down to.
“Like, at what point are we not going to have to talk about it anymore? We are going to hold everyone accountable, or put the spotlight on blacks, or black athletes, or entertainers and say, ‘What are you doing? What are you contributing to your community? What are you putting into play? “
“And then we too, we have to take responsibility. Like, what are we willing to give ourselves? Do we really care what’s going on, or is it just cool to wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the background, or are you wearing a shirt? Like, what does that mean? really? Is he really doing something? “
The Raptors have been outspoken in their push for racial equality. They arrived at the NBA bubble on buses that had “Black Lives Matter” written in large white lettering on the sides.
Over the past week, Raptors players have shown support for Masai Ujiri after a bodycam footage showing a white San Francisco Bay Area deputy sheriff showing the Raptors executive after the Raptors win Game 6 of the 2020 Finals. The Raptors met as a team to watch the video, which was presented by Ujiri as part of a counter-suit.
On Wednesday, VanVleet said the altercation underscores why the players continued to fight for social justice.
“Obviously we are all privileged, and Masai is quite privileged in his world, and just stop and think about how good we are,” said VanVleet, “because there are people who will find themselves in the same situation walking down the street who have no money to fight. the case, who does not have 20,000 people in the stands and does not have the capacity to fight back.
“How many times do cops do things like that without the camera activating, without footage in the arena? It’s a difficult situation.”
Brown, meanwhile, had to take several long breaks during his more than 10-minute media conversation on Tuesday to pull himself together, and said he even had a hard time coming to team practice.
“It was hard enough to come down here to be honest,” Brown said. “But I believe [boycotting is] something you talk to your team about, for sure. We didn’t talk about it like Celtics. But those emotions are real. This is true. Yes, we are athletes. Yes, we are paid to play a sport we love. But we are human beings, members of our community. We are fathers, uncles, nephews, brothers, etc. So all these emotions are real and I don’t really have much to say.
“I’m just happy by the grace of God that Jacob Blake is still alive, because the police who shot him, it wasn’t their intention. They shot him to kill him, and that’s a problem in this country. There are a million different ways. where you could have dissolved that situation and your thought was to kill him. This was the best method. It’s definitely hard to digest or process how you feel about it. Everything about me yesterday was on fire, wake up. See people change their mind. structure of what he has done in the past, in terms of “Well, he was a convicted criminal” or, “Well, he had a history of resisting arrest or maybe he had a weapon.”
“That is not [an] unfamiliar picture in this country. We have seen it over and over again. This in no way constitutes or justifies the fact that you are shooting someone seven times in the back or killing them. Anyone who thinks otherwise is not my friend. “