On Tuesday, prosecutors in Kenosha, Wis., opted not to file criminal charges against three white police officers who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times on Aug. 23, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
The shooting of Blake sent shockwaves throughout the NBA world, which at the time was gathered collectively in the Disney World bubble in Orlando (the idea for which had seen hesitancy from some players who thought leaving their home markets and cities to play basketball sent the wrong message in the wake of the high-profile deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd), and resulted in players enacting a wildcat strike (led by the Milwaukee Bucks) that shut down play for three days.
Players such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell, and Wesley Matthews were quick to voice their frustration and dismay with Tuesday's decision, and in his first media availability since the determination was made, Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell expressed his own thoughts on the matter.
"Man, I’m frustrated," he said. "It makes you feel like the work you’re doing is not enough. The outcries and things from everybody around the world coming together over these issues and topics aren’t being heard. You know, when the officers that are in charge of protecting us and keeping us safe aren’t held for the responsibilities of physical abuse or aggressive aggression when it’s not needed, it’s tough.
"Who keeps them in check when they cross the line? We have people, rules and laws that keep us in check from breaking and hurting other people, but when the officers involved in these shootings and situations aren’t checked for when they abuse their power or cross the line, it puts fear in people’s heart. They know that they can be next, that they’re in trouble for having these encounters with officers who are sworn to protect and keep the people safe.
"So it’s very frustrating. It just shows that there is a lot more work to be done. There’s a lot more protesting and talking to officials and people in charge that make sure that the people involved are held responsible just like we are. It’s not right that just because they have a uniform they’re protected and see no wrongdoing for whatever reason."
The shooting, which happened in front of Blake's three children and was recorded on video, sparked massive protests in Kenosha that saw more than 250 people arrested over several days of unrest. Raptors players, including Powell and Fred VanVleet, were immediately outspoken about their feelings on the incident, and were some of the first in the league to mention the possibility of halting play.
“I was pretty excited [for the playoffs] and then we all had to watch Jacob Blake get shot. That kind of changes the tone of things,” VanVleet said at the time. “[The protests] aren’t supposed to be in vain. It’s just starting to feel like everything we’re doing is just going through the motions, nothing’s changing.”
The two other police officers who were at the scene — Brittany Meronek and Vincent Arenas — will also not be facing charges, according to Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley. There is, however, a federal civil rights investigation presently underway, per Matthew Krueger, the U.S. attorney for Wisconsin's Eastern District, which will make its own charging decision.
"Some of these situations are just disgusting," Powell said. "And the fact that no charges are being brought to people who are losing their lives, losing their loved ones. So, it’s very frustrating for me to see that and know we’ve just got to continue to fight and continue to keep going to make change."