Earlier in the restart, Donovan Mitchell treated us to some of the most electrifying performances in Orlando. He had multiple 50-point games and went head-to-head with Jamal Murray in the opening round series between the Jazz and Nuggets, showing us why he’s one of the NBA’s brightest young stars.
But basketball was only one aspect of what made the Bubble experience so meaningful to him. Mitchell has helped spearhead the NBA’s Social Justice Initiative and is partnering with Dove Men’s C.A.R.E campaign (Care About Racial Equality) to bring greater awareness to these issues. And as a former student at Louisville, he was vocal about the need for justice to be served in the Breonna Taylor case.
For Mitchell, one of the central goals is to be willing to engage in the type of difficult or uncomfortable conversations that lead to broader understanding. In a recent interview, he shared his painful experience about what it’s like to be a Black man in America and how he and so many others are forced to modify their appearance and behavior purely for personal safety reasons.
Via Michael Pina of GQ:
“I think being able to change the way we’re being depicted in the media, not having to take my hood off because I feel like I’m a threat. I think that’s something white people don’t even think about, being afraid when you’re getting pulled over. Whether you said anything right or wrong, having that fear. I don’t think that’s a fear that anyone but Black people or minorities really have. And I feel like that’s just something that we addressed and will continue to let people know that this is real.
“Too many times we hear, I can’t wait for things to get back to normal. Or I can’t wait until this is all over. At the end of the day this is neverending for us. As a 24-year-old Black man who went to a predominantly white private school, there were times where I had to change the way I dressed just to not seem like a threat, or wear a letterman’s jacket or some sweats—that way I’m deemed as the safe Black guy in the area. That shouldn’t be a way Black people feel. And I feel like the bubble was a success in allowing us to at least make people see this is a thing.”
The formation of the NBA’s Social Justice Initiative was a response to the work stoppage in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. Collectively, teams opted to temporarily halt play during the first round of the postseason to put pressure on the league and its owners to construct a concrete plan to fight against inequality.
Beyond that, Mitchell and many other players have regularly been using their platform to speak out on these issues. Experiences like Mitchell’s are endemic in American life, and the type of openness and honesty he’s displayed goes a long way toward empathy and understanding.