Tobias Harris is unwavering.
The 76ers forward had just finished with team highs of 15 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s 90-83 exhibition opener against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was his first game in four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And he looked solid while playing in just 23 minutes.
But when the game was over and he participated in his postgame media availability, Harris didn’t deviate from the message he delivered four days earlier. Back then, he was asked about the possibility of wearing social-justice shirts that Russell Westbrook helped design. On this night, the question was if he’d given thought to how to tie racial-justice messaging into the NBA restart.
“Yeah, so I have given that a lot of thought and that is to continue to push the message – justice for Breonna Taylor,” said Harris, addressing the killing of a black woman at the hands of police officers in Louisville, Ky.
“Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove need to be held accountable, and we need justice for Breonna Taylor and I’ll continue to preach that message after every single game,” he added. “So if you want to hear it, I’m always here to do interviews and use my platform in the best way possible. But those individuals need to be held accountable. And that’s my message.”
Instantly, his double-double and the Sixers’ victory was mostly forgotten.
Harris and teammate Mike Scott have joined a chorus of NBA players who have used their news conferences amid the restart to speak out on behalf of Taylor, who was shot at least eight times after Louisville Metro Police Department officers used a battering ram to enter her apartment before 1 a.m. March 13. The officers were serving a no-knock search warrant as a part of a narcotics investigation.
Last month, Hankison was fired from the police department for violating its policy on the use of deadly force. The police chief said Hankison “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 shots into her apartment. Mattingly and Cosgrove were other officers involved in the fatal shooting. There has been public outrage for the killing and the fact that no criminal charges have been filed.
“I am [shocked],” Harris said of no charges being filed. “I keep calling out his name, [Kentucky attorney general] Daniel Cameron. He needs to step up. He needs to make it a priority for justice.”
NBA players have been looking for ways to use their platform during the 22-team NBA restart. In addition to the pandemic, there have been international protests after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
The Sixers have been in the process of determining what they’ll do to push their racial-justice messaging forward while in Florida.
“So right now we want Daniel Cameron to step up and arrest those names that I’ve just stated and take accountability for someone’s life that’s been taken away, unwillingly,” Harris said. “And that’s where we’ll start.
“We’ll start right there and we’ll try to get justice the best way and in the greatest way for Breonna Taylor.”