Bam Adebayo on what it means to play in Minneapolis and the importance of his platform

Anthony Chiang
·5 min read

For nearly one full year, Bam Adebayo has ended every one of his interviews by saying, “Black Lives Matter, people.”

The Miami Heat’s star center has also worn similar messages on his chest, arriving to games in recent months with shirts and sweaters that include statements like “Support Black Colleges and “It’s The Black History For Me.” Adebayo also dedicated an entire interview last July to calling for justice for Breonna Taylor.

With the Heat in Minnesota during a turbulent time in the state after the recent police shooting and death of Daunte Wright just outside Minneapolis, the 23-year-old Adebayo again used his platform to make his voice heard.

“Obviously, it’s crazy that this keeps happening. It’s not an accident,” Adebayo said before the Heat’s Friday night game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. “How many times is it going to be where it’s, ‘Oh, it was an accident? Oh, we thought he had a Taser.’ It’s like the boy who cried wolf. You’re hearing the same thing, but there’s not a different outcome to it. So it’s disappointing. We’re losing another Black brother to police brutality. It’s sickening for all of us.”

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, died Sunday when now-former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter shot him during a traffic stop. The also now-former Brooklyn Center police chief said Potter intended to use her Taser on Wright but fired her handgun instead.

Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter this week following nights of protests over the killing of Wright.

All the while just miles away in Minneapolis, the murder trial progresses for the ex-officer charged with killing George Floyd last May. Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman who prosecutors say knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, killed the unarmed Black man who was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement on May 25, 2020.

“You can just tell a lot of Black people who live in two different Americas,” Adebayo said. “That’s the honest truth. The white man will never understand what it feels like walking down the street and the police car rides past and you have that cold sweat, or that what-if in your mind. ... And we’re not even talking about the things that aren’t caught on camera or aren’t talked about in the news.”

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association have made it a priority to collectively work together in an attempt to advance social change. The playoffs were put on a brief pause last season in August after the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted a game following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In addition, Heat owner Micky Arison is among five team governors who joined five players and two coaches as the inaugural board members of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, which was created as an organization that will lead the league’s collective efforts to advance equality and social justice.

“I don’t have an answer for you, because it’s so frustrating,” Adebayo said Friday when asked what the NBA can do next. “We bring it to light, we bring attention to it, and then we do all the right things, and then it happens again, and it happens again. What’s the miscommunication here? How do you continuously, accidentally keep killing Black people?”

“We want justice. We just want to be treated as equal, as always. And that’s all we want. We don’t want anything else but to be treated like equal people in this world.”

Because of the unrest and clashes between protesters and police this week in the wake of the shooting of Wright, the Timberwolves’ previous two games were rescheduled. Monday night’s matchup between the Timberwolves and Brooklyn Nets was moved to Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday night’s matchup between the Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks was moved up to Wednesday afternoon, with both games played with no fans in attendance at Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Heat’s game against the Timberwolves at Target Center will be played as originally scheduled at 8 p.m. on Friday and fans are expected to be allowed to attend.

“You’re scared as a Black man,” Adebayo said when asked what it’s like to be in Minnesota during this time. “We’re in the NBA, but that doesn’t change the color of our skin. So that’s how I look at it. Even though I’m Bam Adebayo, I do this and do that, I’m still a Black man at the end of the day. That’s the No. 1 thing. I feel like there’s a lot of fear. A lot of dudes are on edge because we’re right next to it. You never know what can happen. Walking as a Black man, it’s always a what if in the back of your mind.”

Following Adebayo’s 12-minute session with the media via Zoom on Friday to address these heavy topics, he signed off with the same four words he has been using to close interviews since July: “Black Lives Matter, people.”

“At the end of the day, I’m a Black man,” Adebayo said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to have a Black family. And it’s important to me to just verbalize that I am Black and my people aren’t treated fairly. That’s my one way to just put that out there, no matter what. I always end it with ‘Black Lives Matter’ because at the end of the day, I’m a Black life and a lot of Black lives are being lost.”

INJURY REPORT

Guard Victor Oladipo remains out for the Heat on Friday because of right knee soreness. It will mark the fourth straight game he has missed and there’s still to timetable for his return.

The only other Heat players on the injury report are veteran forward Andre Iguodala and two-way contract guard Gabe Vincent. Iguodala (left hip soreness) is questionable and Vincent (right knee soreness) is probable for Friday’s matchup against the Timberwolves.