NBA players denounce decision not to charge Breonna Taylor’s killers
NBA players have been outspoken on racial justice and included “Black Lives Matter” messaging as part of their restart in Florida. The grand jury decision not to pursue charges in the death of Breonna Taylor is yet another injustice the players are protesting. | Ashley Landis / AP

The law isn’t just. It is an imperfect contraption susceptible to the will of malicious hearts often protected by a tin badge, robe, or gavel and manipulated by those hungry to keep hold of political power.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against Louisville police officers for the killing of Breonna Taylor, 26, during a drug raid gone awry. Prosecutors said the two officers who fired their weapons at the sleeping Taylor were justified in their use of force to protect themselves after facing gunfire.

Taylor’s partner, who said he was acting in self-defense, shot and wounded a police officer during the raid, thinking it was a home invasion.

Three counts of wanton endangerment were the only charges filed against former officer Brett Hankinson for shooting through the walls and into the home next to Taylor’s, which had people inside.

The FBI is still investigating potential federal violations connected to the raid on Taylor’s home the night of March 13. Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was shot multiple times while sleeping by the white officers who entered her home on a no-knock warrant.

The grand jury decision sadly was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches who have dedicated this year’s pandemic basketball season to raising awareness around issues of racism, police brutality, and voting rights for Black Americans.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams restarted the season at Walt Disney World, inside the “bubble” with the hopes of finishing off a curious season, crowning a new championship team, and steering the national conversation towards social justice to real change.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

A woman reacts to news in the Breonna Taylor shooting, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Louisville, Ky. A grand jury has indicted one officer on criminal charges six months after Taylor was fatally shot by police in Kentucky. The jury presented its decision against fired officer Brett Hankison Wednesday to a judge in Louisville, where the shooting took place. | Darron Cummings / AP

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said, “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor.

“Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

Last month, the NBA was shut down after players went out on a wildcat strike (referred to as a “boycott” by detractors and some in the media), started by Milwaukee Bucks players in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisc. It almost ended the season, with players feeling their demands for change were not being taken seriously by team governors and the league.

Wednesday’s announcement in Kentucky was another disappointment, a continuation of the immoral trend of injustice stemming back to 2014 when no charges were filed against former officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” said L.A. Lakers guard Danny Green. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.