As the NBA recognizes and honors Juneteenth, a number of Black players have been speaking out at marches, as well as on podcasts and streaming interviews, talking about personal experiences of racism. Specifically, their encounters with police that have shown the systemic racism built into law enforcement nationwide.
“It happened here, two years ago. I got pulled over on 495 and the officer asked me to step out of the vehicle. I’m literally on the side of the highway… my wife, me and one of my friends, sitting in the median of the highway, on the side and he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f— up your Monday and put you on a headline and arrest you right now?’ I didn’t do anything.
“But because I was an athlete, a black athlete driving a nice vehicle, that’s what he came up with. How am I supposed to respond to that? I would just be waking up on Monday morning with an ESPN headline: ‘Bradley Beal arrested because of interaction with police.’ But it happens. It doesn’t just happen to me, it’s everywhere. We just have to stop being ignorant to that fact that it exists.”
It does exist. Without question.
Many other Black athletes — not just NBA players, but from other sports as well — have similar stories. There are countless more stories from Black Americans who don’t have the leverage — the money and name to push back legally as Sterling Brown and others have done — who have far more disturbing stories.
Those stories need to be told — and be heard — as a first step to real change happening. Racism has to be called out, as Lakers’ owner Jeanie Buss did on Friday. It cannot be tolerated, people — especially white people — cannot look the other way.
Good on Beal and John Wall from the Wizards for sharing their stories. It’s a first step down a long road, but an important one.