On Wednesday, after the players strike led to the postponement of three NBA games, Inside the NBA still aired on TNT as scheduled.
While Kenny Smith elected to sit out the show in solidarity with the players, the rest of the crew held a conversation about the protest. That included those in Atlanta (Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Shaquille O’Neal) as well as the TNT staff on the ground in the bubble, namely Chris Webber and Stan Van Gundy.
Webber gave just about the most moving statement I have ever heard from him about being Black, the act of protest, and what comes next. He was emotional throughout, and it was near impossible to watch and not feel the same way.
Here is the video of Webber’s remarks, as well as a transcript of what he said. He explains it better than any of us can.
“Well EJ, it was reported that four years ago today in a preseason game in Wisconsin that Kaepernick first took a knee. Now this (an NBA strike) has never happened before, but I’m sure that Dr. Harry Edwards, Dr. John Carlos, Arthur Ashe, Jackie Robinson, and others have been praying for this day.
Shout out to Kenny that walked off.
I wanted to have a voice in here, because I feel like we only have the same couple voices talking during these times. So it was very important for me to come over here.
I keep hearing the question like what’s next, what’s next. Well, you got to plan what’s next. You have to figure out what’s next.
I’m very proud of the players. I don’t know the next steps, don’t really care what the next steps are, because the first steps are to garner attention. And they have everybody’s attention around the world right now. Then leadership, and others, will get together and decide the next steps.
So we know it won’t end tomorrow, we know that there’s been a million marches and nothing will change tomorrow. We know ‘vote’, we keep hearing ‘vote, everybody vote’.
But I’m here to speak for those that are always marginalized. Those that live in these neighborhoods where we preach and tell them to vote and walk away.
Charles Barkley came to my high school. Just seeing him in the locker room, seeing his hands and his body, that inspired me. You can’t be something till you see it.
And when I tell you the little kids that have called me upset. I have a godson that has autism, and I just had to explain to him why we aren’t playing, I have young nephews that I’ve had to talk to about death before they’ve even seen it in a movie.
If not now, when?
If not during a pandemic, and countless lives being lost. If not now, when?
That’s all I just want to hear from the rest of the night while everybody’s pontificating and thinking and soapboxing and all of that. We know nothing is going to change. We get it. If Martin Luther King got shot and risked his life, Medgar Evers, if we’ve seen this in all of our heroes constantly taken down, we understand it’s not gonna end.
But that does not mean, young men, that you don’t do anything. Don’t listen to these people telling you don’t do anything because it’s not going to end right away. You are starting something for the next generation and the next generation to take over. Do you have to be smart? Yes. Do you have to make sure that you have a plan? Yes. Do you have to be articulate about that plan? Yes, all of those things. But that’s what you’re going to do. They’re professionals, they know how to be the best of themselves.
And so I applaud it, I applaud it, because it is the young people. It is the young people leading the way. And I applaud them.”
The NBA postseason will likely resume this weekend after players and coaches had meetings Wednesday and Thursday to discuss how to proceed.