Basketball stopped — to make us aware the shooting must stop

© Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

The NBA stopped. But only to make us aware that the killing must stop. If we weren’t aware already.

Black men keep getting shot — this time in Kenosha, Wis. — and other black men again did what they could to peacefully show their outrage and fear.

Which simply was to refuse to compete in the sport, pro basketball, where they are dominant and constitute the overwhelming part of every team.

Suddenly, meaningfully, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor against the Orlando Magic for Game Five of their first-round NBA playoff scheduled Wednesday at the ESPN sports complex at Disney World near Orlando, within the so-called COVID-19 protective bubble.

The league then reacted by postponing two other playoff Game Fives, Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers.

Baseball postponed not only the Reds-Brewers game at Milwaukee but also the Dodgers-Giants game in San Francisco.

Some of our entertainment for the evening was wiped away, and you almost could hear the same complaints we got about Colin Kaepernick and his protest: “We don’t care about your problems. We just want to watch the games. We’ve got own troubles. Get out there and play.”

Or, as unsympathetic Donald Trump demanded, “Get that son of a bitch off the field."

Ironically now, the fans want everyone on the field and floor and ice. Yet beyond the sports, as Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry tweeted, “Some things are bigger than basketball.”

Sunday night in Kenosha, 40 miles south of Milwaukee, 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot seven times as he attempted to enter his vehicle with three children inside.

Three months after George Floyd died of suffocation when a Minneapolis policeman put a knee on his neck, two months after national protests against Floyd’s mistreatment turned violent and destructive, there was another fatality of another African American.

And a collective shudder involving even those who, on the courts or fields, seem invulnerable and at times unbeatable — but deep down are frightened.

“We’re the ones getting killed,” said Doc Rivers.

He is the Los Angeles Clippers' coach. He is the son of a policeman. He is black.

On the street, entering his car as was Jacob Blake, now partially paralyzed, Rivers could be just another victim.

Rivers has a wonderful sense of humor, but there was nothing humorous in his words on a Tuesday night when the Clippers crushed Dallas, 154-111. He seemed about to cry.

“We’re the ones getting shot,” he said. “We’re the ones denied the chance to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you keep hearing about is fear. It’s amazing we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. And it’s just really so sad.”

His disappointment is understood, even if it paints us all with a broad brush. It isn’t the country that doesn’t love African Americans, it’s a small inflexible part that finds satisfaction in separation.

Progress never comes without a struggle. Those in control want to keep the status quo. Maybe a boycott by NBA players will not have a positive effect. Maybe it will anger the doubters.

But how else to show displeasures but to use their talent and fame to help change attitudes? If LeBron James goes on a post-game show or on Twitter, somebody may listen. If a game isn’t held, somebody may notice. And wonder why.

“When you talk about boycotting a game, everybody’s antenna goes up,” the always perceptive Andre Iguodala, now with the Miami Heat after championship years with the Warriors, told ESPN. “It’s sad you have to make threats like that — I wouldn’t say threats — but you have to be willing to sacrifice corporate money for people to realize there’s a big problem out there.”

A very, very big problem.