Horning: Even if you disagree with NBA's message, you can still listen

Clay Horning


Or, perhaps, the request is better made like this:


It’s the least anybody can do in this moment of heightened racial awareness, a moment Black athletes, teammates, leagues and ownership is putting social consciousness and justice on the front burner, even ahead of competition.

Predictably and sadly, of course, resistance has not only been swift, but often visceral and threatening, too.

But if you’re pulled toward that side; if you’re threatened by change all around; if you can’t quite grasp what Doris Burke, ESPN NBA analyst, urgently challenged on Scott Van Pelt’s SportsCenter …

“Every single one of us should be asking the same question: Are we on the side of right and truth, or are we on the wrong side.”

… because it reads like a sort of trick, a trap to group you with others who scare you, like you don’t know what you’d be signing up for on the “right” side, there’s still something you can do.

You can listen.

You can listen to a man like Denver Nugget Jamal Murray, originally from Canada, who played his college ball at Kentucky and Sunday, after netting 50 points against Utah, fought through emotions to talk about a topic bigger than basketball.

“In life, you find things that hold value, things to fight for,” he said. “We found something we’re fighting for as the NBA, as a collective unit, and I use these shoes … to keep fighting, all around the world. … They give me a lot of power to keep fighting.”

On his left shoe there was a portrait of Breonna Taylor, killed by police as she slept in a Louisville apartment following the execution of a no-knock warrant. On his right, a portrait of George Floyd, killed by police in Minneapolis.

“It’s not just here in America,” Murray said. “It happens everywhere.”

He’d been asked about the game, had began answering about the game but stopped. As he gathered himself, he was asked what he was thinking in that precise moment and that was it.

After playing the game of his life, his mind was elsewhere, on things more important.

Or listen to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul after the NBA chose to return to the court following a a two-day break in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake, seven times in the back, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“We’re all tired of just seeing the same thing over and over again, and everybody just expects us to be OK because we get paid great money,” he said. “We’re all tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.”

Listen to Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, his voice cracking, long enough to hear him say “It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”

The pain is real.

You can see it, hear it, feel it.

You can believe its misguided, but you can’t deny it. Maybe you should wrestle with that.

Even if you dismiss Black Lives Matter as a political movement with dangerous goals well beyond protecting people of color from bad cops, can you really deny millions of Black Americans feel unprotected, even threatened by law enforcement?

Shouldn’t you want to know more about that? Shouldn’t you want to know what your neighbor is going through?

If you can’t agree with their remedies, can you nonetheless agree they’re hurting and try reckoning with it as a fellow human being?

Columns like this can’t be written forever and they won’t be, but it’s what’s going on in sports right now and will continue until our institutions take up the cause, too, or perhaps forever, whichever comes first.


One person to another person. Because the pain, at the very, very, very least, is absolutely, abundantly and undeniably real.

You don’t have to vote for the same people.

Just a toe in the water.


Clay Horning is a national sports columnist for CNHI. Follow him on Twitter @clayhorning or email him at cfhorning@normantranscript.com.

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