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An Open Letter: Racism and Domestic Violence in the NBA

Dear NBA,

In many ways, you are ahead of other professional sports leagues. Your Black Lives Matter initiatives that were led by the players helped many communities. Your annual All-Star games donate money to good causes. Usually, you are at the forefront of social justice issues. You also seem to preach women in sports.

However, beneath it all, there has been an underlying problem.

Racism and Domestic Violence in the NBA

Accountability and rehabilitation. These two very key things have been lacking in this league. Issues of racism and domestic violence run deep in sports, and it’s time someone did something about it.

Meyers Leonard & Accountability

A couple of days ago, former Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard used an anti-Semitic slur while playing Call of Duty on a Twitch live stream. I won’t attach the video here because of the explicit language, but you can easily find it if you do a quick search. Essentially, while he was playing, Leonard reached a level of anger where he decided to pause, shift through his vocabulary, and choose a word that many people say that they haven’t heard in a long time or that they didn’t even know about because of how old its origins are.

This isn’t the first problematic sign we’ve seen from Meyers Leonard, and today’s response to the investigation makes me unsure that it’s the last.

Why is it that it took hours for Leonard’s PR to come out with an “apology statement” with the classic “I didn’t know what the word meant at the time” excuse? Considering his injury was preventing him from playing this season anyway, a one-week suspension is not enough to hold him accountable. How many chances do we give to someone until they can take real consequences for their actions?

Anyways, on to the next.

Terence Davis, Malik Beasley, & Rehabilitation

As a young woman trying to make it into the sports media field, it can be very demoralizing to see how all sports leagues try and sweep their domestic violence issues under the rug. There are many levels to domestic violence and how it’s approached, especially when it comes to professional athletes.

Raptors fans were left disappointed with everything that came out of the Terence Davis trial. It was dangerous for a couple of reasons.

  1. He was allowed to play without suspension during the trial. After being arrested with seven charges against him, Davis should have only been in one court, not the basketball one.
  2. The lack of seriousness around this trial diminished the victim’s experience. Anytime a woman comes forward against a man in power or status, she knows she is risking ruining herself. By not establishing a clear standing and suspending him temporarily until the investigation was over, the public assumed he was innocent.

As a woman trying to make it into this industry, this was very disheartening. Not to mention, only 5 of the 7 charges have been dropped, and not because he was truly innocent. What does this say about the NBA’s support for women? If we don’t believe women when they come forward, then we’re taking ten steps back.

Rehabilitation. The second part of the equation. Domestic violence stems from deeper issues, ones that cannot be solved in a courtroom or in prison. Domestic Violence Rehabilitation Programs should be looked at when dealing with these cases. If we want people to be treated like humans, we need to look here. Preferably, the education starts earlier, but this should be the first step in a league that is constantly letting us down.

Malik Beasley is facing the consequences of his actions and going through rehabilitation as well. I wanted to mention him, however, for another reason.

Notice something wrong with this tweet? I do. The statistics of a player or the fact that they were in a “breakout season” should never be relevant when discussing an issue as big as this. I place this accountability on the media because it is our job to make sure stories get out in a proper and ethical way. A player’s stats in the same post as their criminal charges is not justified, ever.

Next Steps

What’s the point of this letter? It’s a cry for help. Help from the league, from the media, from the fans to keep their foot on the gas pedal. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but we most certainly cannot continue to sweep it under that carpet. Racism and Domestic Violence in the NBA are just two of the problems and two big ones that need to be addressed a lot more than just in the offseason or when incidents occur.

I implore you to believe women. I implore you to give men a safe space and tackle toxic ideologies. I implore you to crack down on racial slurs. I implore you to stop turning away when you are uncomfortable.

Racism and Domestic Violence in the NBA won’t go away if we ignore it.


A woman in the field of sports media.

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