Israel Adesanya voices support for NBA protest

UFC welterweight champion Israel Adesanya spoke recently with Luke Thomas, ahead of his title defense vs. Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on September 26. The discussion included recent political events in the USA, that have spilled over into sport.

On August 23, officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin responding to a domestic disturbance call, attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, a 29-year-old African American man, who had an arrest warrant for charges of third-degree sexual assault, trespassing, and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse. In a chaotic scene, officers attempted to subdue Blake, including by taser, but were unsuccessful; this took place by the passenger side of his vehicle. 

Blake, pursued by multiple officers, then walked around his vehicle and attempted to enter on the driver side; as he did so, one officer fired seven shots, hitting Blake four times, and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. A DOJ statement said, “Blake admitted that he had a knife in his possession.” A knife was found on the floorboards of his vehicle, on the driver’s side. There are conflicting reports as to whether Blake had the knife in his hand when he was shot.

Protests, some of them violent, then broke out in the area. On August 24, The Kenosha County government declared a state of emergency overnight. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) deployed the Wisconsin National Guard to maintain public safety. Further, armed citizens conducted impromptu patrols; among them was 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who, in another chaotic scene, shot three people, two of them to death. Rittenhouse has been arrested and charged with homicide.

In protest of Blake’s shooting and more generally over racial injustice concerns, a number of sports leagues postponed events:
•The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their August 26 first-round playoff game vs. the Orlando Magic. Shortly afterward, all NBA games for the day were postponed.
•Three MLB games were also postponed on the 26th, as were seven more on the 27th.
•The NHL announced the postponement of all four playoff games for August 27 and 28.
•​All six WNBA games scheduled for August 26-27 were also postponed.
•Major League Soccer players boycotted five games on August 26.
•2020 Western & Southern Tennis Open announced that all matches scheduled for August 27 were postponed.

Adesanya, who spoke in May at a BLM rally outside of the U.S. Embassy in Auckland, NZ, addressed the NBA walkout positively.

“If the NBA walks out, if they f*** their money up, that’s the owners’ money and the shareholders and whatever – good,” said Adesanya, as transcribed by Jed Meshew for MMA Fighting. “If that’s what it takes to bring change, then good. . . Whatever has to happen, man. I’m finding my own way to change the world around me, but I’m doing that in my own life, away from the media.

“I’m trying to respond, not react, because I feel like that’s what they want. They want me to react. They want us to react. They want us to point the finger – blame each other, this side vs. this side. ‘My God is better than your God. My race is better than your race. My people are better than your people.’

“Like, what the f*** is Blue Lives Matter? You choose to be a cop. You don’t choose to be black. It’s a privilege to be black. Bottom line, I choose to respond, rather than react, so I’m taking my time because it just happened, but good on the players in the NBA for doing so. I commend them for that.”

“In time. Love will win, in time.”

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