Black players are not just athletes, they are people first, and we shouldn’t expect them to pretend they don’t feel the emotional devastation of seeing their brothers and sisters shot for the colour of their skin.
Ottawa (28 August 2020) — On August 26, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor for their scheduled playoff game against Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The NBA postponed 3 playoff games on Wednesday and a further 3 games on Thursday. ESPN reported on the discussions that took place and the debate on whether to resume the playoffs.
Black lives matter
The investigation into the shooting of Blake is still ongoing. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) does not pretend to have full details of the incident. However, we stand behind several statements that apply to Blake’s situation and the situation of so many other Black victims of police violence: resisting arrest does not justify 7 bullets in the back. Turning your back on the police should not result in paralysis. Police officers are not above the law, and systems need to be in place that properly investigate and charge officers with excessive violence to prevent incidents like these from happening. No child should have to witness their parent being shot. Black lives matter.
The fact that Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old white male, was allowed to openly carry weapons into a demonstration and kill 2 demonstrators, while Jacob Blake was shot 7 times and paralyzed when he had his back to the police, speaks volumes.
Armed civilian militias have become an increasingly common sight at protests. Research from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and other research bodies have stated that “right-wing attacks and plots account for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994,” (Global News). Though the current wave of protests is in reaction to events that occurred in the United States, Canada is not exempt from anti-Black racism and systemic issues surrounding Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. White supremacists are active and have been organizing in Canada for several decades. CBC News reports that “national hate crime data from both countries are on par.” In 2019, the Criminal Code list of terrorism entities was updated to include Blood and Honour, an international Nazi organization. This was the first time in Canadian history that a right-wing extremist group was added to the Criminal Code.
Questions have been raised in Canada about police conduct in situations with Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of colour. Former Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director Howard Morton criticized the SIU’s investigation that cleared the officers on the scene when Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death during a wellness check in May 2020. CTV News reported that Morton felt that SIU director Joseph Martino, “totally misapplied the law in his decision in terms of what the reasonable grounds are to lay those charges in connection with Korchinski-Paquet’s death.” Activists continue to call for changes to the way police officers respond to mental health crises.
NUPGE stands in solidarity with NBA boycott
We enjoy watching them play, but athletes are still workers, and they’re still human beings. They have a right to protest for causes they believe in, and indeed, causes that directly impact the lives of many players and their families. We shouldn’t expect or want them to stifle the emotional devastation of seeing their brothers and sisters shot for the colour of their skin. We applaud the players and staff, and athletes in other sports for taking a stand against racism and police brutality inflicted on Black people.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE