Kenny Smith, who co-hosts TNT’s “Inside the NBA” walked off the set of the show Wednesday evening in support of the group of NBA players who have boycotted their evening playoff games in protest due to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“As a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight,” said Smith as he detached his microphone and left his seat as fellow commentators Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson watched. “And I figure out what happens next.”
Blake is the 29-year old Black man who was shot in the back seven times as he tried to enter his vehicle on Sunday, August 23 after an altercation with the Kenosha Police Department in Wisconsin. Several people reported that Blake was trying to break up an altercation when someone called the police. A video went viral of the nearly fatal shooting that has left Blake paralysed.
Smith’s gesture comes as the NBA teams scheduled to play their playoff rounds Wednesday; the Milwaukee Bucks [who were the first to boycott by not showing up], the Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the L.A. Lakers and the Portland Trailblazers all followed them.
About an hour after the NBA players made their decision, standing in solidarity, WNBA players announced through a joint statement read by Atlanta Dream forward Elizabeth Williams on behalf of other players saying they would not be playing either.
"We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and we'll continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action," said Williams.
Smith, 55, who played much of his career for the Rockets, is one of several sports commentators who have been vocal over police violence involving African Americans over the course of the past several months. On Wednesday, Chris Webber also made an emotional statement expressing how he feels about the deaths of so many at police hands.
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“I’m here to speak for those who are always marginalized, those that live in these neighborhoods where we preach and tell them to vote and walk away,” said Webber who played several seasons with the Sacramento Kings. “If not now, when? If not during a pandemic and countless lives being lost, if not now, when?”