SALT LAKE CITY — In late August, the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, brought the NBA playoffs to a halt as players boycotted games in protest over what they saw as another unnecessary shooting of a person of color.
The games were played on Tuesday. But many hearts were heavy.
The decision by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley not to charge police officer Rusten Sheskey with any crime didn't lead to another round of games being boycotted, but maybe only because of what it made some players feel: defeated.
"To be honest with you, I don't really have words," Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said following Utah's 130-96 loss to the Nets on Tuesday. "Obviously we see the video and then you can make the point of, 'Oh, we didn't see what happened before that,' but at the end of the day a man was shot in front of his children, and it's heartbreaking and sad to see."
Mitchell has been one of the more outspoken NBA players when it comes to fighting for social justice and is a member of the newly formed National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. Breonna Taylor was shot and killed during a police raid in Louisville — the city where Mitchell went to college. That hit close to home. Each time he hears news of another Black person being shot by police, he visualizes his friends, his sister, or even himself being caught up in the same situation.
So it was hard for him to hear Sheskey wouldn't be charged.
"It's sad that it's become a thing where you don't really expect any justice out of these things," Mitchell said. "As an African American male, it's just one of those things where you're scared and it doesn't matter who you are, doesn't matter if you're the most famous person in the world or whatever. I play basketball but I'm an African American man and I have African American women in my life and it's just disheartening. it's sad. It's tough to see."
Mitchell has donated $45,000 to help Blake's children pay for college.
The protests surrounding Blake's shooting in August led to a nationwide dialogue — one which Jazz head coach Quin Snyder is hoping continues.
"There's a lot going on in the world," Snyder said. "We need to continue to educate ourselves and to not be afraid to have dialogue about those things. Certainly that situation is one that is very serious and has been incredibly impactful on many levels to our entire country and certainly to his family."
In his first media availability as the owner of the Utah Jazz, Ryan Smith put his full support behind Mitchell and the Jazz in their fight to end racial injustices.
"It's not that we're going to be anti-racist; we're going to be actively anti-racist as an organization. And that means we're going to take our time and our energy and we're going to use this platform to help make our communities more equitable from education to health care," he said. "This is going to be one of the things we do and it should have been done a hell of a long time ago. I don't know why we're in this spot. I'm unapologetic about it and I stand with our guys."