When the Sal’s NBL tips off tomorrow at 5:30pm, a purposefully designed decal of a black basketball and heart will be on the floor.
The ball represents the basketball community. The heart symbolises the desire for unity, the importance of racial tolerance, and the pursuit of understanding and harmony to fight racism. The colour represents the support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the US and around the world.
The BLM ball has been designed with support of an NBL group made up of coaches and players. It will remain on court for the entirety of the competition and be part of a broadcast that will be beamed to screens in New Zealand and across the world.
This follows Basketball New Zealand’s statement earlier this month, acknowledging that it has been just over a year since the mosque attacks on 15 March 2019 in Christchurch, and publicly supporting those who stand against racism after the killing of George Floyd.
Speaking on behalf on the NBL and the New Zealand basketball community, Coach Kevin Braswell, was one of those involved with the BLM ball design. Earlier today he spoke about his thoughts on its meaning and why this message is important.
I’ve experienced what many black males go through in America, just the fear of being in a situation where something so minor can escalate unnecessarily, especially in situations like what we saw with George Floyd and law enforcement. It’s fear, it’s real.
It’s good to see we are talking about something that needs to be discussed, we should be able to talk about it and become better people for it. But the starting point is to stand up and understand we do have an issue. Let’s get to that point first. And then let’s tackle it, together, with unity.
One of the great things that basketball presents to you worldwide, especially in the NZNBL and ANBL, is race is embraced. We see great unity amongst teams and players in our leagues. When you look back over the years in the NZNBL we have had so many players come from all over the world, people like Tony Webster, Leonard King, BJ Anthony, just so many great athletes who have been loved and admired, and it has helped so many African Americans in particular come to New Zealand to help build the league, and for many of these guys they haven’t left, they still live here, they are part of the community. I really like that.
In New Zealand you see so many kids playing and loving the game, they are from all different backgrounds, the diversity amongst our community is an asset. The camps Steven Adams conducts, hundreds of young boys and girls from all backgrounds, they are so inclusive. This is a strength basketball has to keep embracing and holding close.
In basketball we all have a chance to be leaders and it’s up to all of us to talk about these things. I’m pleased the NBL has been strong on this, the statement by Basketball New Zealand a few weeks ago is a start, and to see something on the court here in this competition, that we as players and coaches can see and acknowledge, is also important.
Across New Zealand we still have much to do, but I really do feel we have some people who want to listen, want to understand and want to work towards harmony. That’s an important step. But please, we’re not isolated, we do need to do more.
Please, stop and have a conversation. We need to educate ourselves and understand why black lives matter. We can do that here in New Zealand, just the same as we can do it in America. Why are we this way? What does history tell and show us? Let’s learn. Talking about it is a good thing, I really do believe that.