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Following a late-game rally that earned the Oklahoma Thunder a 117-114 victory against the Houston Rockets in the NBA playoffs, Yahoo! Sports reporter Stephanie Ready asked Thunder point guard Chris Paul about the team’s fourth-quarter play. What Ready got was not the typical postgame boilerplate.

“I don’t know. That’s all good and well,” Paul said. “I’m going to send my prayers out to Jacob Blake and their family.”

“The things that we decided to come down here to play for and we said we’re gonna speak on, the social injustice and the things that continue to happen to our people — it’s not right. It’s not right.”

“The win is good, but voting is real,” Paul continued. “I’m gonna challenge all my NBA guys, other sports guys, let’s try to get our entire teams registered to vote. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the country. Sports, it’s cool, it’s good and well, it’s how we take care of our families, but those are the real issues we gotta start addressing.”

That quote and the decision by players in the Oklahoma City Thunder plus the rest of the NBA and WNBA players to engage in a “wildcat strike” says a lot about Paul’s integrity and the law enforcement crisis facing America. They made their jarring point and now have decided to play again after tense negotiations with owners.

Opinion

Opinion

by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press

Of course, Paul was referring to Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was allegedly shot in the back seven times Aug. 23 by Kenosha Police Department officer Rusten Sheskey when police were called to Blake’s girlfriend’s residence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She told dispatchers that “her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.”

Blake was not killed, but might be permanently paralyzed from the shooting.

This event reinvigorated Black Lives Matter protests around the country but especially in Kenosha, which has experienced unusual levels of hostility from law enforcement in recent years.

In 2018, when five Black men and women in their teens and early 20s stole about $5,000 in merchandise from an outlet mall in nearby Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin and engaged in a high-speed getaway, Kenosha sheriff David Beth made a blatantly racist statement about that case and future ones. It is worth quoting at length, because Beth is espousing prejudicial eugenics in its most elemental form.

“I’m to the point where I think society has to come to a threshold where there are some people that aren’t worth saving,” Beth said. “We need to build warehouses to put these people into it and lock them away for the rest of their lives. These five people could care less about that 16-year-old who just got his driver’s license yesterday. They drove through a red light, they stole thousands of dollars worth of clothing, and they don’t care.

“Let’s put them in jail. Let’s stop them from, truly, at least some of these males, going out and getting 10 other women pregnant and having small children. Let’s put them away. At some point, we have to stop being politically correct. I don’t care what race, I don’t care how old they are. If there’s a threshold that they cross, these people have to be warehoused, no recreational time in jails. We put them away for the rest of their lives so the rest of us can be better.”

Judicially rendered punishment is understandable, but throwing people into internment warehouses to die is the stuff of genocide.

With protests ramped up in Kenosha, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, drove 30 miles to Kenosha and shot three protesters, killing two of them. Rittenhouse is a former member of nearby Grayslake, Illinois Police Department’s Public Safety Cadet program and sat in the front row at a rally for President Donald Trump on January 30, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Paul, one of the most charitable and socially active members of the NBA, is a cofounder with Michelle Obama, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Janelle Monae of When We Vote. This nonprofit organization seeks to close the voting registration and participation gap, encouraging young people and people of color to vote at the same rate as senior citizens and the White population.

It is notable that when the New Orleans Hornets temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Paul put considerable effort toward the Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma County, mentoring and fundraising for the organization. He cares about his community and, as he proved this week, all communities.

When players, coaches and owners agreed to play this year’s season in the 2020 NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida, it was to bring needed entertainment to a nation plagued by coronavirus and police violence. But the decision to strike, first by the Milwaukee Bucks and then the rest of the NBA, came because nothing seems to be working. Somehow, police and district attorneys seem emboldened, and so the NBA decided to direct people’s attention to this enduring crisis.

“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, referring to a Republican National Convention during which the politics of fear and racial division have flowed inexorably. “We’re the ones getting killed, we’re the ones getting shot, we’re the ones who are denied to live in certain communities.”

“It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back,” he said.

In contrast, Republicans, conservative media figures and an army of idiots on sports talk radio are dismissive of the NBA players’ strike.

“If they want to protest, I don’t think we care,” Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, told CNN’s New Day on Thursday. “I don’t know that you are going to see the administration weigh in one way or the other. In my mind it’s absurd and silly.”

Jared Kushner, the sallow Death Eater to Trump’s Lord Voldemort, was similarly dismissive.

“Look, I think that the NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially,” Kushner said. “So they have that luxury, which is great.”

If this is the response from these so-called ‘law and order’ politicians and their toadies, then I sincerely hope that the NBA players continue to strike, and whether he is on the court or on the mic, I will cheer for Chris Paul’s use of his position to force change and influence voters to engage.

And if the opportunity arises, I’ll vote for him.


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