NBA: Game Stoppage Came Without Plan, But Plan of Action Is Realer Than Ever

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

As it turned out, it was the actions of a Kenosha, WI police officer from which National Basketball Association players couldn’t reconcile.

Not the unchecked COVID-19 pandemic that enclosed the NBA off from the rest of the world in a last ditch effort to even finish their 2020 season.

No, it was that damned officer, who, even in the thick of outcries over systemic racism and the use of fatal force, still felt emboldened to fire seven shots into the back of an unarmed Black man Sunday — from which National Basketball Association players couldn’t toe the line any more, the line separating them from true investment in the ongoing literal battle for our lives.

By boycotting its potential series clinching playoff game Wednesday in protest of the indefensible shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin and the perpetuation of police brutality, the Milwaukee Bucks made the kind of statement that sanctioned social slogans and conspicuous court embossing couldn’t.

“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protesters,” said Bucks guard Sterling Brown in a statement read aloud by he and teammate George Hill outside of Milwaukee’s locker room while encircled by the remaining Bucks squad shortly after their boycott became official.

Brown, a Maywood native who has a lawsuit pending against the city of Milwaukee and its police department following an altercation stemming from a parking violation in 2018 continued, “despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

That Brown, Hill and their Bucks teammates were presumably willing to forgo contention for a championship most would argue they had a more legitimate shot at capturing than any other Eastern Conference team and a real chance to bring Milwaukee its first title since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was its franchise player (and even he was still known as Lew Alcindor then) was as righteous a statement as the inception of former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem, which happened four years prior to the day.

In a markedly different social climate, where eyebrows are now raised in response to players who stand during the Star-Spangled Banner, the Bucks’ historic demonstration was aptly complemented by the conjoined protests of other athletes and teams throughout much of the sports landscape; 14 games across four separate sports — including the other two NBA playoff contests — were postponed Wednesday; Women’s Tennis Association star Naomi Osaka, who identifies as both Japanese and Haitian, pulled out of the Western & Southern Open in New York.

Just about all the scheduled action in the same sports were held off on Thursday as well, in spite of the NBA Players Association announcing their intention to get back on the court as soon as this weekend — even the NHL, surprisingly hung up their skates Thursday and for games going into Friday.

Splashier still was the scene painted at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, site of the WNBA “Wubble.”

WNBA players, often unsung trailblazers of social activism, knelt at center court with their arms locked in solidarity. The demonstration was punctuated by shirts worn by the defending champion Washington Mystics that, together, spelled out “J-A-C-O-B B-L-A-K-E” on the front and were accented by seven holes on the back to represent the amount of times the 29-year-old father of six was shot.

“These moments are so much more bigger than us,” Mystics guard Ariel Atkins said. “If we do this unified as a league, it looks different. We matter. I think that’s important. I’m tired of telling people that. I know I matter. We know we matter. If you have a problem with me saying Black Lives Matter, you need to check your privilege. Yes, all lives matter, including the Black lives we’re talking about.”

And thus the second boycott in NBA history — hall-of-famer and civil rights activist Bill Russell, his Black Boston Celtics teammates and those of from the opposing St. Louis Hawks team staged the first in a 1961 protest of racism in a scrimmage in Kentucky — acted as a killer right cross following the jab Kaepernick so valiantly placed toward a society that at large was ignoring racial oppression and inequality in 2016. In 2020 there now seems to be no excuse for being on the sidelines in the fight for Black people’s rights.

Like the rest of the country, none of the players nor coaches convening at the Walt Disney Wide World of Sports Resort in Florida has a definitive solution to thwart police brutality.

A mutual exasperation with a system responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the past year, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and now Blake’s partial paralysis exists both inside and outside of the NBAs bubble nonetheless.

“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” said Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers Tuesday in response to Blake’s shooting and the first day of the Republican National Convention. Rivers removed his protective mask Tuesday to ensure his typically croaky voice was heard more clearly before he continued in a speech that will long be quoted in basketball circles and possibly beyond.

“We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.

“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back,” Rivers said. “It’s really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach. I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better. But we got to demand better.”

Although NBA players ultimately decided to return to the court and resume the 2020 playoffs, their actions, as well as those of other athletes from across the sports world, drove the conversation of social justice to the doorstep of the lawmakers most responsible for the enactment of change in the Bucks’ backyard

Specifically, change spurred on by Wisconsin State Senator Scott Fitzgerald and Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who recently announced the creation of a task force to address police accountability in the latest battleground state.

”The Bucks have frankly done more to address these issues than Robin Vos or Scott Fitzgerald have done,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul during a press release Wednesday. “And so I applaud them for stepping up and playing a leadership role in the debate.”

Our elected leaders must now do the same.

2 responses to “NBA: Game Stoppage Came Without Plan, But Plan of Action Is Realer Than Ever

  1. Pingback: Chicago Sports Exchange: Teams Exercised Rights, Stood For Others In Important Week | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

  2. Pingback: NBA: Jordan Finally Combining Influence As Player With Wealth As Owner | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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