2020 has brought a lot of racists out of the woodwork, especially in the weeks since Minneapolis police officers killing George Floyd sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
The Lakers have addressed that movement and the reform efforts it has sparked in a variety of ways, from releasing a statement saying that they “condemn racism, bigotry, violence and prejudice in all its forms,” to supporting their players as they protested, as well as bringing in activist and former Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to speak to the team on a Zoom call and hiring their first ever Director of Racial Equality and Action, among other moves.
While all of that has been going on, there has simultaneously been a movement among some players — including Lakers veterans Avery Bradley and Dwight Howard — that have led calls for the NBA to reexamine its plan to resume the season, and if it’s the best thing for the progress that the Black Lives Matter movement has made. Bradley has been particularly outspoken, recently telling NBA ownership groups that if they care about their players, they can’t remain “silent and in the background” on racial issues.
On Friday, Lakers team governor Jeanie Buss answered that call, posting racist hate mail that she had received in the wake of all these changes, and saying that she wouldn’t be silent about such things anymore, all while calling on other white people to acknowledge the racism that exists in the U.S. (warning, possibly triggering language):
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After much thought, I decided to share this letter I received on Monday so that everyone can see the hate is real and living out there. This is happening in our world TODAY. Its real and it exists. To Joe: Did sending this letter make you feel better? Really all you did was waste your time, and energy and your postage stamp. (But thank you for including your return home address) Why don’t you look in the mirror and see your ugliness because I refuse to. I have received letters like this over the years. The advice I always got? “Ignore it.” I did. But not anymore. On this day, Juneteenth, I ask my white friends to join together, acknowledge the racism that exists in our country and around the world, and pledge to stop ignoring it. We all must do better. #juneteenth #hatewontwin
Buss received almost universal support from the Lakers, both current and former, in the wake of her post. LeBron James took to Instagram to say “LOVE YOU JEANIE” and offer a middle finger emoji pointed at Joe, while his teammate Kyle Kuzma highlighted that speaking out was not something he’s seen from many other people in Buss’ position:
Former Laker (and Lakers executive) Magic Johnson also wanted to thank his longtime friend and former boss for calling attention to the letter, as well as how he feels she and the Lakers have always been on the right side of history on racial issues:
I wouldn’t have become the businessman I am today without your father Dr. Jerry Buss mentoring & treating me like a son. Jeanie, you are a special woman & your voice needs to be heard. I respect you & will always love & support you and my @Lakers! #BlackLivesMatter @JeanieBuss— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) June 20, 2020
In their initial statement after Floyd was killed and protests had begun around the country, the Lakers said “we hear the pain of our Black community and we will not stay silent.”
On Friday, Buss didn’t.