Chris Webber Made A Passionate, Emotional Plea: ‘If Not Now, When?’

With NBA players going on a wildcat strike after the Bucks refused to take the floor in protest of a police officer shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin, TNT held a 30-minute special with the Inside the NBA crew being joined by Chris Webber and Stan Van Gundy from the Bubble.

Kenny Smith chose to walk off set in solidarity with the players at the start of the show in a powerful moment. Webber, meanwhile, explained that he wanted to come on to be a voice that isn’t often heard. What followed was one of the most powerful three minutes you’ll see on the topic of racism on any TV network.

“Well EJ, it was reported that four years ago today in a preseason game that Kaepernick first took a knee. No this has never happened before, but I’m sure 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 this because I feel like we only have the same couple voices talking during these times, so it’s very important for me to come over here. I keep hearing the question, “What’s next? What’s next?” Well, you’ve 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. I 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. 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 then walk away. Charles Barkley came to my high school. Just seeing him in the locker room, seeing his hands and seeing his body, that inspired me. You can’t see something — you can’t be something til you see it. And when I tell you the little kids that have called me, upset — I have a godson with 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 want to hear from the rest of the night when 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, and we’ve seen this in all of our heroes constantly taken down. We understand it’s not going to 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 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. So I applaud it. I applaud it because it’s the young people, the young people leading the way. And I applaud them.”

In three minutes, Webber dives into so much, eloquently expressing the frustration and exasperation of Black people around the country to continuing to see police violence and racism, to seeing their protests and calls for justice ignored, time and time again. At the same time he expresses optimism and a call to action to young people to never give up the fight, no matter how often people tell you it’s a fruitless venture. It’s a powerful message and one that, hopefully, everyone takes heed of. His presence on Wednesday night’s airwaves were vitally important, as his perspective was much needed and what he said got into issues that are rarely presented.