In happier times, The Onion once ran a piece mocking the interminability of the National Basketball Association’s schedule: “NBA Playoffs Interrupted By NBA Preseason.”
Leave it to 2020 to make that a reality; thanks to the league’s discontinuous season, the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida, is still wrapping up with four teams left. If you really wanted to see Reggie Jackson dethroned as Mr. October by Anthony Davis or Jayson Tatum, this is your year.
Also, if you wanted to see NBA players with their names replaced on the back of the uniform by social justice messages, this was your year, too — at least for the first few games post-restart.
As you doubtlessly know, in between when the league stopped play and started back up, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the subsequent protests it touched off changed the whole calculus of the NBA’s messaging, with some players saying they wouldn’t even return in the name of social justice.
They eventually decided against that tack, which was wise, because why leave money just lying there on the table? The social justice messages were an acceptable substitute for real change, as always — as was the inclusion of the phrase Black Lives Matter on the court, further eroding that three-word construct into truistic meaninglessness.
However, the players couldn’t choose their own messages to put on the back of the jersey. The league made sure there was a shortlist of pre-approved messages with nothing too radical on there — like, say, support for Black Liberation Army member and convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur, who’s now enjoying a hopefully brief renaissance as a figure of resistance. One can understand that.
Also too radical was support for protesters in Hong Kong or Uighurs interned in prison camps in China’s Xinjiang Province. One can very sadly understand that, as well.
And of course there were no messages in support of police for players who might have divergent views on the matter. Because of course not. And, again, one can sadly understand that.
GOP Rep. Chip Roy thinks there should be such a message on the back of a #43 jersey. That’s the number of police officers killed in the line of duty so far in 2020. It’s a number you’re not going to hear on any telecast for the rest of the NBA season — and he wants America to know that.
During floor speeches in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the Texas Republican read off the names of the 43 law enforcement officers killed next to a placard with the hypothetical jersey on it.
“Where is the NBA?” Roy asked rhetorically after he had finished reading the list.
“Where are the names I just read of the 43 police officers who have died in the line of duty this year?”
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 16, 2020
“I want to know that. I want to know where those names are,” Roy said.
He also had another question: Where was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on all of this?
“Where is this body? Why aren’t we on the floor, voting on a resolution voting on a resolution honoring these 43? Why aren’t we standing up for law and order?” Roy asked.
“Why aren’t we standing up for security in our streets? Why are we instead turning over this country to mob rule?”
“These names matter, too, Mr. Speaker,” Roy concluded.
Roy had made a similar speech the day before, criticizing both the NBA and Democrats for their silence on the matter.
43 law enforcement officers killed so far in 2020, up ~43 percent from the same period in 2019.
8 officers shot in the front of the head.
2 in the back of the head.
— Rep. Chip Roy (@RepChipRoy) September 16, 2020
“Forty-three law enforcement officers that have been murdered, are their names on the back of any jerseys?” Roy asked. “Or is that just for preening and posturing by the true privileged who play sports for a living?”
Sadly, this is again all rhetorical.
As the NBA playoffs bleed into where the NBA preseason would have ordinarily been, we’re seeing nothing but preening.
There are far more people who can name the major fist-raising, anthem-kneeling moments the National Basketball Association has engaged in over the last few months than who’s actually left in the playoffs. (Lakers, Nuggets, Celtics and Heat, to save you the trouble.) They can name the slogans that were on the backs of the jerseys. They probably couldn’t name one of the people whose names Roy read.
That’s the real outrage.
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