The Orlando Magic have their share of distractions due to injuries to key starters on their roster, but the aftermath of the invasion of the Capitol Hill may be the biggest distraction of all.
America should be embarrassed.
This is not a “faux democracy” where the United States has previously authorized the immediate removal of a particular dictator. No this is President Donald Trump’s supporters mad and being sore losers about him losing the election to Joe Biden. This is them illegally storming the Capitol and threatening the sitting government doing their constitutional duty to affirm the votes of the previous election in hopes of keeping their preferred candidate in power.
It was a shocking moment that chilled many Americans and people around the world. It chilled players within the NBA too.
"“There’s not much to say,” Evan Fournier, who is from France, said after practice Thursday. “When things like that happen in America, sometimes I don’t necessarily understand. When something happens I always try to translate it to something that would happen if it were in France. I thought about people in Paris getting inside the area of Paris where you have the ministers and the Senate, it didn’t seem possible that something like that could happen. i can’t even imagine how you guys might feel. It’s very scary. The worst thing to me is people who did that are on TV saying their names like it’s OK. It’s kind of hard to understand from my perspective.”"
The players from the Orlando Magic have to deal with this distraction and maintain focus in a chaotic situation just as every other player in the NBA will. It is among the many hurdles the Magic are going through right now.
But this distraction is bigger than basketball. Bigger than the missing starters and injuries that have slowed the Magic’s hot start.
This distraction is something most African-American players have been trying to get the world to see, that it is indeed two Americas.
In one America, a young 12-year-old African-American child (Tamir Rice) can be shot dead by two Cleveland police officers and avoid federal charges. He is among countless other young Black men killed for innocuous reasons.
In the other America, white Trump supporters can invade the Capitol and Capitol police will take selfies with intruders.
Most African-Americans just want to know why the same level of restraint cannot be applied to our nation of people the same way it was applied to the intruders of the Capitol? After all, it was only in June when police in full military garb cleared Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. with violence so President Trump could take a photo in front of a church.
Wednesday was a disappointing day for everyone in the nation.
"“Obviously it’s unsettling for all of us,” coach Steve Clifford said before Wednesday’s game. “We can disagree about policies or the way the country should be run. But there is no place in our country for what is going on right now. That’s not protest. They have gone way over the line. I’m 59 and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s sad. We’re being laughed at all over the world from the way we’ve handled the pandemic to this. It’s a sad day for everyone.”"
The last thing we need as a nation is for our professional athletes to feel like the people that look like them are being marginalized or not treated fairly because it puts a particular amount of pressure for them to speak up for their people.
Several players on the Magic have taken up some efforts to further the conversations players spearheaded inside the bubble.
Clifford has continued to work with local organizations seeking to bring equality, including working with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition founder Desmond Meade. Clifford has sponsored a program that recognizes a person in the Orlando community working for social justice and a better community at each Magic game.
The NBA has felt this impact most acutely. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat discussed sitting out Wednesday’s game before playing and releasing a joint statement on their decision and their disgust with what was going on at the Capitol:
Boston Celtics star forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum spoke up about the riots at the Capitol and vowed to keep fighting for change.
"“It reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King has said,” Brown said. “That there is two split different America’s, in one America you get killed for sleeping in your car, selling cigarettes or playing in your back yard. And in another America you get to storm the Capitol, and no tear gas no massive arrests, no none of that.”"
"“It’s 2021 and kind of keep finding ourselves in the same situation,” Tatum said. “It’s tough because we are not surprised about what we see on T.V. you know it’s just the world we live in.”"
Players for the Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons took a knee after the game tipped off to protest Kenosha, Wisc.’s failure to prosecute the police officers who shot Jacob Blake during the summer.
How will the African-Americans in the NBA and specifically on this Magic team explain what just happened to their children after just explaining the death of George Floyd, and how Wisconsin police shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back, in front of his children, paralyzing him for life for walking to his car? How will any American explain this to their children?
These are tough discussions to have about the lack of equality in America.
These are just a few instances that will stir the pot for the African American players on the team and they will see how compassionate their teammates are who do not have to worry about being a Black man in America truly feels about what just took place.