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SALT LAKE CITY — By Monday morning, news of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last weekend had reached every corner of the NBA bubble near Orlando, Florida. Even with details still coming in, many in the NBA saw it the same way — another Black man unnecessarily shot by police.
Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder wasn’t scheduled to do media on Monday. But he felt he needed to touch on this topic.
“I'm at a loss for words how disheartening what's happened is,” Snyder said. “And talking to our team about how proud I am of our group, and all the players down here and their attempts to address these issues peacefully and productively. Whether it be with posts or various other ways that they're trying to bring attention to this.
“As I said, I'm at a loss but I think that it's important for us to acknowledge this is going on and hopefully figure out some way to address it and create some sort of lasting change.”
The video of the shooting zooms in on Blake as he starts to round the front of an SUV. Trailing him are two police officers, their guns drawn and pointed directly at Blake.
Blake opens the door of the vehicle and begins to climb inside when at least one officer fires towards his back. Seven shots are heard.
The shooting happened around 5 p.m. on Sunday and left Blake in critical condition.
Black Lives Matter is written on each court of the NBA bubble and the majority of players wear social justice messages like "peace," "say her name," and "equality," on their jerseys. These are attempts to have the conversations over racial injustice continue and to not have basketball and the playoffs be a distraction from the social movement that has swept through the country this summer.
After what happened Sunday, though, the players feel like those attempts have fallen on deaf ears.
"Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are,” Milwaukee Bucks and former Jazz guard George Hill said. “But we're here. It is what it is. We can't do anything from right here. But definitely, when it's all settled, some things need to be done."
Donovan Mitchell shared the same sentiment. In an all-caps tweet, Mitchell, just hours removed from a 51-point performance, made the point the games and the playoffs were unimportant. He said that the shooting was “sick” and a “real problem” while explaining that these instances are the reason he and the Black community doesn’t feel safe.
Many players — including Utah Jazz players Jordan Clarkson, Nigel Williams-Goss and Jarrell Brantley — participated in protests throughout May and June before arriving in the bubble; Snyder attended a Juneteenth commemoration with his family in Salt Lake City. The players hoped the platform the NBA Restart could give a stronger voice to the social issues. Now, after Blake’s shooting, they are afraid that the NBA just served as a distraction.
“I mean, I haven't heard much information that come from it, but just seeing the video, stuff like that makes you sick,” Clarkson said. “I know growing up as a kid you fear the police and stuff happening to you like that. ... I mean there are three policemen there on the scene ... I don't think the first option should be to shoot somebody."
But as painful as seeing the video and hearing the news of yet another shooting was for the league, the coaches and players are still determined to create a meaningful change. It's just figuring out how to do that. Especially when they are confined to a campus in Florida.
“Obviously this is another incident that people across the country, our players, coaches, are continuing to be confronted with,” Snyder said. “And I think that the overarching goal, in whatever way it can happen, is to try to impact lasting change. I don't have answers to that on a fundamental level, but I think there continues to be a commitment, and however that commitment and awareness manifests itself, that obviously something that needs to happen.”