In an effort to raise awareness of the issues of police brutality and systemic social injustices, members of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and WNBA’s Washington Mystics led a demonstration from Capital One Arena to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. to commemorate Juneteenth on Friday.
Prior to the 2 1/2-mile march, Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal shared his personal experience with alleged police misconduct. Per multiple reporters attending the event, Beal said a police officer pulled him over on the Capital Beltway “for no reason” in 2018 and told him, “What if I f--- up your Monday and put you in a headlock and arrest you right now?” He said he was with his fiancée and a friend at the time.
🚨🚨MUST SEE🚨🚨#Wizards Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) shares one of his many encounters with the police. This is the sad reality of so many black people.— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) June 19, 2020
For more: https://t.co/C6Di30tdS1@wusa9 @WUSA9sports #JuneteenthDay pic.twitter.com/fZ765Kkvnv
Beal and his teammates, including All-Star point guard John Wall, along with members of the Mystics, sported T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Together We Stand” on the back. Using Megaphones, they led chants on the march, including, “No justice, no peace,” and, “Breonna Taylor,” a 26-year-old black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police executing a no-knock warrant just after midnight on March 13. Protesters nationwide have called for the arrests of the officers involved.
Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the company founded by Ted Leonsis, who owns both the Wizards and Mystics, endorsed the demonstration on Thursday in coordination with the announcement of multiple initiatives in the fight against police brutality and social injustice. A press release described the march as an effort to honor Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks “and too many others” killed in police shootings in addition to calling for “specific actions to advance the cause.”
“Sports have a significant impact on the day-to-day life of any great community, and I believe that owning teams is a public trust,” Leonsis said in a statement. “My goal is for our organization to serve as a unifying force for good — I believe this is part of our social responsibility, which we all take seriously at MSE. Core to our mission is inspiring all employees, stakeholders, and our community to ‘leave more than we take.’ So, I am proud to announce today our first set of initiatives, actions, and investments to do our part in calling out abuses of power from law enforcement in our community and committing to the deep, focused and long-term work on fighting social injustice.”
Among the initiatives are voting activation, advocacy for police reform policy, a marketing and communications campaign, a review of the company’s diversity and inclusion practices, and a program to match all employee donations to nonprofit organizations advancing social justice causes. MSE also announced Juneteenth as a company holiday and granted employees paid days off for elections.
Juneteenth marks the date in 1865 that Union soldiers ordered the freedom of enslaved people in Texas, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law.
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