If the Los Angeles Lakers had beat the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, they would have advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2012. But instead of battling each other on the court, the players instead chose to stand together off of it, enacting a wildcat strike and cancelling their game to protest and seek justice for Jacob Blake.
Blake, a 29-year-old, unarmed Black man, was shot by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin seven times in front of his children while attempting to enter his car over the weekend. And as much as Buss was excited to watch the team she’s been trying to steer back to the playoffs for almost a decade, she knows this is far bigger than basketball:
I was excited to see us play - and hopefully close out our series - tonight. But I stand behind our players, today and always. After more than 400 years of cruelty, racism and injustice, we all need to work together to say enough is enough. #JusticeForJacobBlake #WeHearYou— Jeanie Buss (@JeanieBuss) August 26, 2020
Buss was one of the first members of a team ownership group to speak out on their own about this — Alex Lasry, whose Milwaukee Bucks kicked off the movement in the NBA, was the other — and it’s not just a token statement. Buss is throwing the organization’s full support behind this cause, with the Lakers’ official Twitter account not only demanding justice for Blake, but taking the extraordinary step of providing the contact information for Kenosha officials that fans can flood the phone lines and email inboxes of to seek charges against the officers who shot Blake.
The Lakers and other teams — who are, by their nature, usually corporations that are incredibly reluctant to do anything even the slightest bit political — throwing their weight behind this movement is incredibly noteworthy, especially since they’re doing more than just releasing a completely vanilla statement only designed to not offend anyone. For those asking why the players opted to sit out, THIS is why. Take away basketball, and all of a sudden the causes that matter to them suddenly become a lot more important to their teams, the league as a whole and its fans.
Where things go from here remains to be seen (players and coaches in the bubble are meeting tonight to discuss whether to continue playing), but kudos to the Lakers for showing such wholehearted solidarity with their players. Just a few months after fully committing to be an anti-racist organization, they’re backing it up with their actions.