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Tsai: Barclays has ‘become a place for people to assemble and have their voice heard’

Protests Against Police Brutality Over Death Of George Floyd Continue In NYC Photo by Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images

The entrance plaza outside Barclays Center has become the focus of so many demonstrations since the murder of George Floyd focusing not just on his death but the larger issues of police brutality and racism. For seven straight days, thousands have come to the Nets and Liberty’s home at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues. The world’s media has been filled with images of the demonstrations and clashes with police under the arena’s distinctive oculus.

Like the arena itself, the plaza is owned by the State of New York but controlled by BSE Global, Joe Tsai’s parent company for his New York sports properties.

And so, Kristian Winfield of the Daily News reached out to the billionaire owner and Alibaba executive vice chairman, asking how he feels about the plaza’s new role. Tsai’s response was, essentially, fine by me as long as everyone gathers peacefully.

“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 plaza’s location is indeed an ideal gathering spot. Barclays Center sits atop the third most trafficked transit point in the city and is at the crossroads of Brooklyn’s two busiest streets. As one protestor told Winfield, its convenience is one draw.

“It’s the central hub of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Every train goes there,” 29-year-old activist, Tiana Brigette told Winfield. “There’s also a vibe you get from the amount of people there that pulls your spirit in that direction.”

Of course, in the first few days of the demonstrations, there were instances of violence on the plaza with police using chemical sprays to disperse protesters and “kettle” crowds, that is corralling them, breaking them up. At times, police also blockaded the entrance to the Barclays Center subway station, limiting ingress and egress to the plaza.

Since those first few days, the demonstrations have been more peaceful, but the tension remains. The NYPD has set up a substation on Dean Street, minutes away, to stage its local operations,

For Tsai, this is the second statement he —and his management— have made about the issues that have led to demonstrations in New York. Last Sunday, Tsai and his wife Clara issued a statement that concluded “Enough is enough.” It also pledged support for developing solutions. Here’s an excerpt.

We don’t pretend to have all the solutions. The organizations represented by the undersigned are committed to using our voice and our platform to facilitate empathy and dialogue, to help find answers, to heal the wound and pain.”

“We will continue work alongside our community —our fans, players, employees, and including law enforcement — to raise awareness, push back on racial prejudice and bring about meaningful change.”

The statement did not provide details on any initiatives but called for “a peaceful response in a joint fight against racism.” It was noteworthy in that it did not limit the organizations’ indignation to the the death of Floyd, the Minneapolis man killed by local police nearly two weeks ago. Instead, it discussed the broader issue of racism. New York’s other NBA owner passed on an opportunity to do the same.

The plaza has sustained some minor damage, but it’s been mostly confined to graffiti on the stonework that make up the plaza and stanchions. The entrance to the arena was not breached.

Meanwhile on Sunday, arena management decided to replace the ad stream on the oculus with a quote from Martin Luther King: “The time is always right to do what is right.”

And on Monday, Tsai tweeted this endorsement of Black Lives Matter ...

Tsai and his wife have earned plaudits from the governors of both New York and New Jersey for their role in bringing needed supplies, particularly ventilators, to the area at the height of the coronavirus crisis and agreeing to play hourly workers at the arena since the NBA shutdown. The cost of the two initiatives is likely around $15 to $20 million.