Black Lives Matter. Amid the chaos that has been 2020. In places and times we didn’t expect.
We’ve seen it all. No matter how much time we missed from Brooklyn Nets basketball, the Nets still found ways to remain one of the most talked about teams in the league by far.
Wait, but how? Well, a large part is thanks to what the Nets organization as a whole has been doing following George Floyd’s death. That event sparked protests all over the world, some of it centered on the entrance plaza outside Barclays Center! With the season set to restart on July 31 and players deciding whether to play in Orlando or not, let’s take a look at what the Nets have been doing with the BLM movement.
We can’t talk about the Nets and the BLM movement without mentioning Kyrie Irving. A couple weeks ago, as America was still recovering from dangerously high numbers of COVID cases, Floyd’s murder shocked not just the NBA but the world and priorities shifted.
The Nets, led by Joe and Clara Tsai, were quick to issue a statement, becoming one of the first NBA clubs to do so ... and the only one in New York.
From wondering and worrying about when and how the season would resume, the issue suddenly became should it. Big names like LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Russell Westbrook were among star players that vouched for the season to comeback, a Nets player raised his hand and asked for a larger debate.
Kyrie Irving, in a series of Zoom calls with dozens of NBA players, suggested that the NBA shouldn’t resume the season because it would distract all of us from the bigger problem at hand: systemic racism in America.
According to Shams Charania, Irving told some 80 players who joined a conference call 10 days ago: “I don’t support going into Orlando. I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. Something smells a little fishy.”
The Nets star also reportedly told the call, “I’m willing to give up everything I have (for social reform).”
Although some, including Adrian Wojnarowski, suggested Irving had initially agreed with the plan to bring the NBA back, then changed his mind, a week before the call, Irving wrote this as part of an Instagram post...
“It’s clear White Supremacy and Corporations use us Native Indigenous Black Folk when it is beneficial for their agenda and pockets, so be aware of the truth in plain sight Family. How are we gonna break these generational curses that have been put on us purposefully to kill us and our families off? Taking our Land and Culture Back!”
So, there was consistency.
Kyrie’s controversial and courageous comments were enough to have the whole league debating. In fact, it made other players like Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard, and Kyle Korver come out to show that they stood with Kyrie on this one.
Stephen Jackson, George Floyd’s childhood friend and “brother,” also voiced his thoughts on what Irving said,
Inside the Nets locker room, Irving’s teammates made it clear that they supported Irving or at the very least, the debate he began. Wilson Chandler tweeted his thoughts Tuesday night...
Crazy to me how fans, ex players and players criticized Kyrie for voicing his opinion. A opinion that wasn’t wrong at all. Who cares if you didn’t like his delivery or the way he went about it. With everything that’s going on from police brutality to covid he had the backbone— Wilson Chandler (@wilsonchandler) June 24, 2020
Chandler also seemed to be uncertain whether he will play.
* backbone to speak his mind. Whether I’m on the court playing or not I respect and support his opinion.— Wilson Chandler (@wilsonchandler) June 24, 2020
In fact, Nets teammates expressed their support for continuing the debate in different ways. Kevin Durant went after Kendrick Perkins who used his ESPN soapbox to call Irving a “bird brain.”
“If you take Kyrie Irving’s brain and put it in a bird right now, guess what that bird is going to do?” asked Perkins. “It’s going to fly backwards, because Kyrie right now is confused.”
It wasn’t long afterwards that quotes from the interview began to appear on social media. And it didn’t take long after that for KD, aka easymoneysniper, to respond...
And when Stefan Bondy of the Daily News tweeted that Irving had gone on a Nets chat to suggest NBA players found their own league, teammates reaction was quick...
Then, after Bleacher Report picked up Bondy’s tweet, it was Chris Chiozza’s turn...
Y’all just making up shit about my guy now... cut the cap y’all really getting annoying https://t.co/Zg2L61vBjF— Chris Chiozza “FLASH” ⚡️ (@Chiozza11) June 17, 2020
Garrett Temple and Joe Harris took a different route when talking about the issue. The two players went live on the NBA’s Instagram to talk about the importance of “white allyship” in the fight for justice.
The video was just a mini representation of how locker rooms will look when the season resumes. Temple explained that of course we all want justice, but in reality we don’t have it. One quote that stood out was when he said, “If black people could do it themselves, it would have been done by now. We need allies.”
CNN even brought Temple on to discuss the issue...
“The biggest difference this time is that I feel like we have more allies,” says Garrett Temple, VP of the National Basketball Players Association. “The Black community, we’re 13%, but I feel like White America or non-Black Americans are willing to help us fight” pic.twitter.com/LQm0YCzmjs— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) June 19, 2020
When it came to protesting, a number of Nets took to the street. Kyrie protested in what looked like Phoenix. Rookie Nicolas Claxton made sure to take part in the fight as well. On June 11, the big man marched (maybe even stomped) outside Barclays Center and continued on to the various streets of Brooklyn. After the protest, Claxton went on Instagram...
Similarly, Caris LeVert, shown with his Michigan teammate, D.J. Wilson of the Bucks, marched and spoke.
Note that the two players received nearly 50,000 likes for their posts.
Tsai, who took full ownership of the Brooklyn Nets less than a year ago, gave the New York Daily News a quote about protests at Barclays on June 7, noting that the arena entrance plaza has been one of the city’s main gathering places for social justice protests.
“Those of us who cannot possibly experience the personal pain and indignity of racism towards black people feel a sense of helplessness as frustration and anxiety reach a boiling point. But it does not mean that we sit idle. We have said that we will use the voice and platform of the Nets, Liberty and Barclays Center to facilitate empathy and dialogue. In Brooklyn, the Plaza at Flatbush and Atlantic has become a place for people to assemble and have their voice heard. If it continues to serve as a place where everyone from our community – from residents to businesses to police alike – gather peacefully to listen to each other and find common ground, then it’s good with me.”
The Brooklyn Nets, as a team, as an organization has not remained silent like many others in this fight. The BLM movement is necessary because the country is dealing with a problem that puts black lives in danger. If there is never any justice, there will never be peace.