Jamal Murray had a pair of Adidas shoes with Breonna Taylor’s and George Floyd’s likeness on each shoe placed in front a Zoom camera.
For exactly two minutes, the pair of shoes sat on a stool before Murray sat down in front of the camera.
“My skin color should not determine whether I live or die,” Murray later went on to say. “This is a human civil rights crisis that is going on. The amount of injustice that’s been happening, over and over, so repetitively, done in a way, inhumane, [it’s] very emotional.”
“I just wanted it to resonate with you guys and anybody else that is watching,” Murray later explained when asked about the shoes. “How long was that? Two minutes? One person on that shoe had a knee on the neck for eight [minutes] … it doesn’t take me, a 23-year-old, to recognize that’s not right and that should be in everybody’s mind.
“If you don’t see it that way, then there’s a problem with you. I just want to let that sit. That was only two minutes … only a quarter of a time that somebody had a knee on their neck … he was a father, and a son, and a brother. It’s tough when you really let it sink in your mind and replay it over and over in your head.”
As the Denver Nuggets return to the court to try to keep their season alive in Game 6 down 3-2 to the Utah Jazz, Murray and head coach Michael Malone talked much more about the bigger fight they are engaged in against social injustice and racial inequality.
After the Milwaukee Bucks opted not to take the floor for Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, that sparked a string of postponed games not only in the NBA but in other pro sports as well. The Bucks, and many others inside the NBA bubble, are outraged over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, who was shot multiple times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“Listen, all the players, all the teams voted to stay,” Malone said. “But let me remind everybody, just because all the teams voted to stay, I have a feeling that when teams took an internal vote, that the vote to stay was probably 8-7, 9-6, 10-5. It wasn’t unanimous, it wasn’t a landslide that we [now] have 13 playoff teams that are all thrilled about being here still. That makes it really hard.
“We’re going into a game where we can’t be, one foot in, one foot out. I put myself in our players’ shoes. It’s hard, man. It’s such a delicate balance. I want to do what’s right for society, I want to do what’s right for my people, and I also have a game to play, and I also want to represent our fans back in Denver and across the nation. I can only say this: Yesterday was a really hard day.”
Malone said that Friday’s practice — the first one for the Nuggets since play was postponed and the players met on Wednesday — was “probably our worst practice that I’ve been a part of in my five years.”
Malone said he wasn’t surprised and that he understood and sympathized with his players, who went through the gamut of emotions and have been away from their families, loved ones and friends for 54 days on top of dealing with Blake being the latest Black police shooting victim.
“It has been a very emotional time,” Malone said. “I think when you add everything into this situation, you can understand the emotions that everyone down here is feeling. I think anytime you’re away from your family for 54 days, that in and of itself, is hard. When you have the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as a reminder of George Floyd, a reminder of Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, and there’s so many other names, that kind of was a boiling point.”
Murray says the past couple of days off were necessary for players to reset, regroup and figure out what steps to take to impact change.
“Jimmy Butler did one thing, he took his name off of his jersey,” Murray said of the Miami Heat star. “I think that was so powerful. Because if he is just another Black man, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Could be homeless, could be walking on the street, you would never know.
“And when somebody hurts, you don’t really see it. The mental side of this is a really big factor. How you think about, how you see things, how you look at somebody. The color of my skin should not determine whether I live or die.”