There’s no doubt we’re living through difficult times. America is hurting and no amount of Band-Aids or gauze can stop the bleeding right now. Change won’t come overnight, but talking helps. ESPN’s NBA Countdown crew addressed what’s been going on in the world recently with Paul Pierce and Michael Wilbon both describing their experiences as black men in a country that, as Pierce’s former coach Doc Rivers put it, “doesn’t love us back.”
Pierce, who grew up in Oakland and later Inglewood, California, remembers the confusion he felt seeing his friends scatter whenever police came by his neighborhood. “It’s like everybody knew when cops came down the street, you ran. I didn’t understand it as a kid. I’d be like, ‘Why are we running? We’re not doing [anything],’” said Pierce. “Today, I could see why. We’re scared of them. We’re scared of cops. I’ve been pulled over, handcuffed, then asked questions about nothing.”
Police brutality against blacks has been a recurring theme throughout 2020. Breona Taylor and George Floyd were killed by police while Jacob Blake was recently shot seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Police violence was easier to sweep under the rug when Pierce was growing up in the early 90s, long before inventions like smart-phone cameras and social media were thought into existence. Yet, even with these technological safeguards in place, incidents like the one that left Blake paralyzed from the waist down continue to occur with alarming frequency.
“When I grew up there were no tapes,” said the former Celtics star. “Now we have video of it and it continues to happen. That’s the sad part.”
Chase Claypool of the Pittsburgh Steelers shared a heartbreaking text message he received from his father earlier this week, warning him not to do anything dangerous behind the wheel for fear of being pulled over because “the cops might kill you.” These are conversations parents are having in black households throughout the country. Appearing on Spectrum Sportsnet Wednesday night, Lakers studio analyst and seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry got emotional talking about the worry he feels every time his sons (ages 14 and 21) leave the house.
“I tell my kids all the time, I don’t care what’s going on because at the end of the day, I want you coming home to me. If you have to lay down on the ground and they can kick you, beat you, at least you’re going to go to the hospital and then you’re going to come home to me,” said Horry, fighting back tears. “Whatever they say to you, don’t take it upon yourself to let that rage you have against that cop come out, because he has the gun. He can end you. And I don’t want him to end you, because if he ends you, that means I’m going to end him.”
Michael Wilbon has broached many of these same subjects with his 12-year-old son, Matthew. “If you have to remind teenagers to make a bed or do chores, you know you better remind them what they need to do with their hands, whether they need to have a wallet, what they need to do with their cellphone if they are pulled over or confronted by law enforcement,” said Wilbon, describing the vigilance needed in these dark times. “I know just seeing a squad car pull up beside me, I’m worried about it. Stephen A. [Smith] talked about people ultimately recognizing us which, yes, that has happened, but you never know if it might not happen and if somebody does and disregards it anyway.”
After much debate over whether the season should continue in the wake of recent events, the NBA playoffs will resume Saturday.