When Draymond Green speaks, people listen.
The honesty and transparency he displayed Monday night after the Golden State Warriors’ win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was typically refreshing. Sitting atop his literal podium, Green detailed the double standard that exists between the treatment of players and front office staff when it comes to the subject of player movement with a matter-of-fact cadence that may indicate he’d spent a lot of time stewing in these thoughts.
It’s hard to argue against what he illustrated.
There’s no doubt that a player requesting a “new situation” elicits a visceral annoyance that folks simply do not match when guys like Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are donning street clothes on the bench, awaiting the decisions of their organizations. It looks as though all Green was asking was, “why?"
Following Green’s comments, NBA fans flocked to place themselves in a pair of KD 13s in order to predict how they’d react in this scenario, frequently concluding that “this is just the way things are.”
The players have achieved the American dream of turning a passion into lucrative employment — a testament to the oddity of shared ownership and plentiful soapboxes in a predominantly Black sports league and, to many, precisely why the status quo shouldn’t be disrupted.
For the NBA, this dream pans out amidst regular calls to “shut up and dribble,” which results in vocal defiance among players and a further demand to be heard. It’s a vicious, fascinating cycle of abrasive expressiveness and pearl-clutching with each side fuelling the other. And it’s welcomed because it’s necessary. We should want discussions about player and ownership dynamics to be commonplace, and suggesting otherwise is ignorant of the NBA’s demographics.
When one asks that basketball and politics be separated, they don’t account for the many factors that affect televised sports today. Factors like a pandemic, racial injustice and political instability, to name a few. Professional, unionized athletes are, by no means, representatives of North America’s most marginalized groups. But nonetheless, Green does an excellent job challenging employee and employer dynamics that we don’t think too much about. Foggy injustices that don’t even garner a flinch any longer because the demands of capitalism, coupled with the cost of living, gives us enough to occupy our minds with.
A rant about a player being sat in preparation for a trade may seem frivolous, but Green’s vocalized passion about a topic that highlighted the inconsistent responses to paralleled situations reminds us of the inescapable nature of being Black, on and off the court. It’s been especially impossible to ignore over the last several months — even for those who actively try.
Following unprecedented global protests, we once again find ourselves in the throws of self reflection and hyper analysis during Black History Month. What can be tolerated? What should be ignored? Am I making it appear worse than it seems?
Professionals playing in the league’s COVID-19 protocol season juxtaposed against the chaos that surrounds them always makes for a poignant outcome. I’m reminded of Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown speaking to the media about his team’s decision to return to the court and play the Wizards following the riots at Capitol Hill after both teams initially walked off the court.
"It’s OK to be upset. It’s OK to be angry... We expressed ourselves through basketball today,” he said. "We don’t encourage violence, or anything of that nature. It’s OK to be upset…. We want to keep inspiring change. I want to believe that we’re doing the right thing.”
It wasn’t necessary, to say the least. Statements from Brown won’t really change anything or result in any legislative measures, just as statements from Green won’t bring a billionaire’s front office into introspection and self awareness.
But the purpose of his words, as with the many quotes through the past few seasons by countless players regarding topics of race, politics and player agency, is to communicate a loosely shared reality. That “it’s OK to be upset” — and you know what, we can call that solidarity.
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