While the NBA has been on hiatus since March 11 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, a different virus has reared its ugly head again — this one, mired in the depths of U.S. history. Since then, George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and nationwide protests for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless other Black lives lost to police violence have ensued. Nurses and doctors have worked tirelessly on the hospital front lines while protesters have risked their own safety and lives to march for justice.
As the NBA is gearing up to resume its season in Orlando next month, so many within the league believe that it is important to not lose sight of the message and the fight for justice. On Monday, the Los Angeles Clippers released a powerful two-minute video narrated by Paul George, who spoke about the events that have transpired in the U.S. while the NBA was on pause. The short film, titled “While We Were Away,” shows how the country has banded together to fight the coronavirus and protest against structural racism and police violence against Black Americans.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) June 8, 2020
The video opened with the words, “Basketball is the greatest game in the world, but it cannot ease our pain nor heal our wounds.” George, who joined the team in free agency last summer, began by acknowledging the work and commitment of health workers and other essential workers during the pandemic.
“While we were away, they closed up the courts, pulled down the rims,” George said. “The virus spread, the hospitals surged. Masks became the uniform. Zoom became the job. Essential was redefined — doctors, nurses, the grocery clerk: our All-Stars.”
The 30-year-old went on to pay tribute to Floyd, Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and call out the “national cycle of racial injustice and police brutality.”
“While we were away, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered. Cause of death: another, more familiar virus, centuries-old,” George said. “The names and dates change. The national cycle of racial injustice and police brutality do not.”
George also noted the importance of continuing the movement, saying, “There is action to take, work to do beyond pretty statements and glossy videos.”
In the past two weeks, many NBA and WNBA players including Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Natasha Cloud, Jewell Lloyd and Stephen Curry have partaken in nonviolent protests and marches for the Black Lives Matter movement. While George and the short film conceded that many lives, jobs and livelihoods have been lost due to the pandemic, the protests have brought hope and some signs of progress. Additionally, as basketball’s return is imminent, its role as a global platform for social good and awareness will be equally as important.
“Basketball offers no vaccine, no cure,” George said toward the end of the video. “Only an example of teamwork, of togetherness.”
The words, “Bigger than basketball,” flashed on the screen to end the video.