Facts Are An Inconvenient Truth For Today’s Professional Athlete

The political and social landscape that our society currently operates under is at a tipping point. As American cities burn in the name of racial injustice, in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, and during a presidential election that could define a generation, professional athletes have become front and center to all three, and it’s not a good look for them.

Beginning with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, and most recently, Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI, both professional and amateur athletes have used their respective platforms for protest and grievance airings. With little to no facts available at the flashpoint, the lack of complete investigations, and a need to rush to judgment, Twitter and other social media become an unverifiable news outlet, where likes and retweets become the currency of approval.

It’s not sustainable

The NBA, the league most visible in this summer of discontent and now on hiatus until Friday, is now at the forefront of those seeking retribution. In the Florida bubble, where groupthink and likemindedness is the new day-to-day, facts become negotiable, especially when holding together a fragile narrative that drives the social justice machine.

In Minneapolis, where riots continue to erupt, dueling memorandums offer conflicting causes in the death of George Floyd. While that is to be expected as Floyd’s court case ramps up, the seldom aired extended video of the altercation that led to his death is too often ignored. It also lends credence to the idea that in the rush to judge, and with a narrative in desperate need of support, that narrative becomes void of facts. Facts are only tried in a court of law but ignored in the court of public opinion and in the NBA bubble.

Therein lies the problem. Lebron James has no time for facts. For King James, “Black Lives Matter” is a lifestyle. It’s also a lifestyle short on facts but long on have-truths, shades-of-truth, and often lies. When asked if he’d seen the additional bodycam footage that had been leaked to the Daily Mail, his response was that he would watch it “as soon as he can”. If he had, it’s hard to imagine he’d interrupt the narrative he now is a critical co-author of.

In the bubble, facts are few and far between. It’s hard to get a comment on Jacob Blake and the reasons why he was at the house of a woman he was not supposed to be at, OR, the warrant that had been issued for his arrest. As a point of interest, reporter Taylor Rooks only asked one question of Toronto Raptors player Fred VanVleet. She wanted to know “how he’s doing.”

The bubble also doesn’t yield much if anything when it comes to the fact that it was Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend who admittedly fired at police, striking one officer, before Louisville police returned fire, and tragically killing Ms. Taylor.

The bubble also didn’t have much on the report from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Dr. Andrew Baker, the Chief Medical Examiner for Hennepin County, would note that after review of Mr. Floyd’s blood test, substances found led him to conclude that it was an overdose that led to his death.

Facts are not part of the NBA Bubble. In fact, they likely aren’t welcome, as Taylor Rooks softball questions devoid of journalism reveals.

What happened in Minneapolis, Louisville, and most recently in Kenosha are all tragic. They are also rich in facts ignored and still ongoing investigations. Athletes like Lebron James, Fred VanVleet, and Kenny Stills are now part of the ongoing construction of a narrative too often short of all the facts. They are enabled by activist coaches like Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr. They are aided by the likes of journalists like Taylor Rooks, radio personalities like Colin Cowherd, and networks like ESPN, TNT, FOX Sports, CNN, MSNBC, and any number of print outlets who long ago picked a side in the culture war America is now drowning in.

It’s often said that facts don’t care about your feelings. They don’t. In these days where riots and burning buildings are routine, where private citizens and independent shop-owners are stuck in the crossfire, and the police are routinely demonized, facts play a small part in the evolving narrative.

“A lot of people use this analogy that Black Lives Matter is a movement. It’s not a movement. When you’re black, it’s not a movement. It’s a lifestyle,” he said. “This is a walk of life. I don’t like the word ‘movement’ because unfortunately in America and in society there ain’t been no damn movement for us.”

Lebron James, Sporting News, July 24, 2020

In the bubble, where players, commentators, and would-be journalists report on the day-to-day, facts are ignored. Facts would hurt feelings. They would disrupt the narrative.

Lebron said, “Black Lives Matter is a lifestyle.” It’s also a lifestyle devoid of facts. Something King James seldom speaks to these days.