The weight of George Floyd’s murder by the hands of a former police officer is not lost on Danny Green one year later.
On May 25, 2020, Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed Black man, was killed by since-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white.
A jury found Chauvin guilty of all charges — unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — on April 20. Floyd’s slaying sparked worldwide protests and reckoning on race in America. And the NBA and its players used their platform to fight racism and social injustice.
“It’s crazy how fast it’s gone. One year,” Green said. “The trial took so long – obviously everyone celebrated the verdict as a win, but it’s something that should be normal. We talked about that.”
But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Chauvin would be convicted, even though many watched the cellphone video of the killing.
That’s because there were pictures in 1930 of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith being lynched by a mob in Marion, Ind. There was a video of Rodney King being beaten by police in Los Angeles in 1991. And there was the video of Tamir Rice being fatally shot in 2014 by a police officer in Cleveland. No one was ever held accountable for any of those incidents or many others like them.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers talked about the significance of the Chauvin trial to the team on the morning of April 21. To Green, the anniversary is a reminder that we still have to continue to stay the path.
“We have to be louder, more than ever,” he said. “Outside of him, there are still many other incidents that have happened that need to be fixed.
“It’s just a reminder of where we were a year ago, some of the things that have been accomplished, but also how far we are away from accomplishing those things.”
Returning members of last season’s squad and new Sixers have been at the forefront of trying to make change over the past season.
Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, general manger Elton Brand, and team personnel marched in peaceful Philadelphia protests to declare Black Lives Matter after Floyd’s murder.
The Sixers and other participating teams didn’t mask their social-justice platforms while competing in last summer’s NBA restart in Kissimmee, Fla.
The National Basketball Players Association and NBA had “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court inside all three of the arenas that were used at Walt Disney World.
The league also allowed players to replace the names on the back of their jerseys with phrases promoting the fight against racial inequality and social injustice.
Then came the night of Aug. 25 when Rivers, as the Los Angeles Clippers coach, got choked up while discussing the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black male, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wis.
“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers, who is Black, said of the Republican National Convention.
“We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.”
And no one will forget George Hill’s actions on Aug. 26. As a Milwaukee Buck, he spearheaded the Bucks’ boycott of Game 5 of their opening-round series against the Orlando Magic in protest of the Blake shooting.
That led to the NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer seasons being interrupted that day to protest racial injustice and Blake’s shooting. The NBA resumed on Aug. 29 after the players got league owners to be proactive in the fight for racial and social justice.
“The NBA has done an amazing job – especially in the bubble,” Green said. “I think these times help remind us to get back onto that course and that pathway.
“We had incidents where we stopped [playing] in the bubble. [The anniversary of Floyd’s murder] is an incident where we don’t have to stop, but it also reminds us to refocus.”
Green thinks, in general, all professional leagues need to refocus, get back to the bigger picture of things and try to make a change.
“Obviously, things are starting to open up,” he said about COVID-19 restrictions loosening up. “The world is starting to get more normal and starting to lose that type of focus, but we have these types of reminders that help you circle back and regain that focus.”