It was Wednesday afternoon.
The Orlando Magic was on the court prior to what was to have been an NBA playoff game.
The Milwaukee Bucks, who were to have provided the opposition, remained in their locker room in the Orlando bubble.
As we now know, the Bucks were deciding whether to play and, in the end, the players chose to boycott, their reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who took seven bullets in the back in Kenosha, Wisc., which is 40 miles south of Milwaukee on I-94.
Meanwhile, ESPN, which was to have televised the game, was filling time with speculation and stories while awaiting final word. Would there be a game or not?
And there was Sam Mitchell, a Black American who used to be the head coach of the Toronto Raptors. These days, he shows up as an analyst on TSN, NBA-TV, NBA Radio on SiriusXM and, on this afternoon, ESPN.
As I listened, Mitchell, with a chuckle, told how he is of an age — he’s soon to turn 57 — where he still carries his wallet in a hip pocket.
But when he gets in his car, he said, he takes the wallet out of his pocket and puts it on the dash. Because, he explained, if he were to be pulled over by police, he wouldn’t want to have to do any reaching. Why not? Because he never wants to do anything that would give a policeman an excuse to shoot him.
For whatever reason, what Mitchell had to say just blew me away.
I’m on social media. I subscribe to three big city American newspapers. I hear, see and read the stories. I guess I just had never had it explained to me in this fashion.
Maybe it’s because I get in our vehicle, turn the key and drive somewhere almost every day without ever giving a second thought to where my wallet is in that vehicle. (For the record, it’s in my right hip pocket.) But the more I thought about it the more what I had heard from Mitchell really hit home.
And that’s why I wasn’t the least bit surprised to arrive home later in the afternoon — yes, I got in our vehicle, wallet in pocket, and drove away — to find out that three NBA games were postponed, and that WNBA players also had shut it down, dropping three games. Three MLB games, including one involving the Milwaukee Brewers, didn’t take place, nor did five MLS games.
(During a meeting of teams Wednesday night in Orlando, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers are said to have voted to end the season. Other teams apparently didn’t follow suit. The NBA has called an emergency meeting of its board of governors for this morning.)
Naomi Osaka, the Japanese tennis player, pulled out of a semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open in New York City, saying, “Watching the genocide of Black people at the hand of police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.” (Later, the tournament announced that it wouldn’t hold any matches today as it takes “a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States.”)
NHL players, of course, didn’t miss a beat. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning went ahead with their playoff games in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles. The NHL spent 27 seconds acknowledging Blake prior to the game in Toronto. There was nothing in Edmonton. Not a peep.
What? You expected the NHL or its players, the vast majority of whom are white, to show awareness of something going on outside their bubbles. They showed little of that a short time ago when the likes of Evander Kane and Matt Dumba, both of whom are Black players, started Hockey is Diversity. That followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis policemen on May 25.
On Wednesday evening, before the games began, former NHL G Kelly Hrudey, now an analyst with Sportsnet, offered: “I’m disappointed that we’re talking about hockey tonight. I don’t think we should be here. I think the NHL should postpone the games.”
But when the first intermission arrived, Hrudey was sitting there . . . talking hockey.
Over on TNT, analyst Kenny (The Jet) Smith walked away from the NBA set.
“As a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and not be here tonight,” Smith said as he walked away.
Meanwhile, I watched the last few minutes of the first period of the Boston-Tampa Bay NHL game and the first intermission. When the Sportsnet panel all but ignored what was going outside its bubble, I turned off the TV.
I’m not saying I’m done with the NHL for any specific length of time, but for now I can’t watch. I won’t watch. I am embarrassed — but not surprised — that NHL players showed the world exactly how tone deaf they are.
Of course, hockey players, for the most part, learn pretty much from the get-go not to swim against the current. These days, however, some of them might want to check to see if the current is changing direction.
If you are on Twitter, check out the thread posted by Kishaun Gervais of the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday night, part of which is right here: