The protesters were demonstrating against the killing of Salaythis Melvin by Orange County deputy James Montiel last month. The 22-year-old Melvin died of his injuries after being shot while fleeing deputies outside Dick’s Sporting Goods. A stolen handgun was reportedly found on his person, but his family has questioned why a taser couldn’t have been used instead of lethal force.
Carrying signs and megaphones, the protesters intercepted the buses on Buena Vista Drive between the arena and hotel and refused to let them through.
The longest of the protesters’ signs read “We are here because Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy James Montiel shot & killed an innocent black man at the Florida Mall on August 7, 2020 #JUSTICEFORSALAYTHISMELVIN.” Among the other signs were “Salaythis needs national news 4 justice,” “Deputy Montiel = Murderer” and “Officers are not judges + executioner.”
One sign in particular called for LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Russell Westbrook to stand with the protesters. The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn tweeted the protesters thought the bus was filled with NBA players.
One bus was eventually allowed to proceed after a driver or official spoke with protesters, one of whom asked if the bus’ occupants could come out and support the protest. That received an emphatic rebuttal, as it would have blatantly violated the NBA’s bubble protocol.
They’ve now let the bus come through. pic.twitter.com/3pnMvls0qK— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) September 13, 2020
The protesters soon stopped another bus containing media members, including Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. That bus was also let through after police provided space, per Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.
A protest in The Bubble blocking bus filled with league staff and media. Waiting on sheriff to arrive. pic.twitter.com/dqOK6UgVcu— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) September 13, 2020
It is unclear if the protesters also stopped other NBA buses not containing media members. The players’ buses would likely have left for their hotel before the media members.
Racial injustice reaches NBA’s platform again
The use of the NBA bubble as a national platform for social justice has been a major narrative in the league’s restart. Several players, including Kyrie Irving and Dwight Howard, pushed against a return due to a desire to keep a focus on racial injustice in the wake of killings like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
James notably pushed for the resumption of the season, saying the players could both play and advocate for reform with their platform.
The league and players eventually reached a compromise in which “Black Lives Matter” was emblazoned on the courts at Disney World, players were allowed to wear pre-selected social justice slogans on their jerseys. The league’s owners later made a collective $300 million donation to causes empowering the Black community.
Racial injustice again became a major story following the shooting of Jacob Blake, which led to a player wildcat strike that ended with the league pledging to turn its owned arenas into voting centers and the establishment of a social justice coalition focusing on criminal justice reform.
The protesters’ bus blockade is another example of the NBA’s platform being used to call attention to racial injustice, though this would be the first time it’s been done by a party outside the league.
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