O'Donnell: Would LeBron lead an iconic 'George Floyd Statement'?
IN A PANDEMIC-FREE WORLD, the 2020 NBA Finals would have started last Thursday.
Now, there are vague guarantees they might be over by Halloween, with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy as referees and Donald Duck as lead courtside announcer.
Whenever they happen, there is more than casual certainty the ghost of George Floyd will be hovering over the games, as his fated spirit will be over any kind of sporting endeavor with a sense of humanity.
But there is a question that has to be of critical concern to Commissioner Adam Silver and all NBA broadcast and business partners:
What will the shape of "The George Floyd Statement" by players be?
If The Finals went into motion last week, imagine this scenario before the opening tip of Game 1:
It's LeBron James and the Lakers vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
The national anthem plays. No one kneels. Not a hint of "disrespect" is shown.
The players are introduced. There is no power or protest salute.
The din settles. The starters move toward center court.
And then LeBron holds up his right hand in a commanding "halt." It's very similar to the silent, gloved directive that Denzel Washington used in Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" to guide the Black Muslims away from the Harlem police station in defiant solidarity.
James meets Antetokounmpo near center court.
Around them, all players and staff -- Laker, Buck, Laker, Buck, Laker, Buck -- also kneel and bow their heads.
And the ticking begins.
Not for 1 minute. Not for 2. Not for 3.
For a full 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The arena might remain silent. Some fans may also kneel. A few might dare boo or hiss.
And the full 8:46 plays out -- the same amount of time the badged barbarian in Minneapolis knelt on Floyd's neck.
Does ABC/ESPN air it all?
What if LeBron were to announce plans in advance with the caveat:
"We will have monitors watching to guarantee the nation sees our statement in its totality. And if there is any cutaway of any sort, even for one second, we don't play the game.
"I'm sure Commissioner Silver and all league associates are with us on this. Our breaking point has been broken for the last time."
Iconic, impacting sports imagery to match anything Colin Kaepernick, Tommie Smith or John Carlos ever did?
But nowhere near as impacting or haunting as that video from the curb in Minneapolis.
LOCAL OVALEERS HAVE essentially reached their breaking points on any redundant reportage regarding the folly over whether Churchill Downs Inc. will allow its Arlington Park to conduct D-list live racing this summer.
Whether or not "Bunker Bill" Carstanjen and his Louisville illuminati deign to extend extreme largesse to the panting turf serfs of Illinois has been rendered irrelevant.
What is relevant is the arrogant independence of an out-of-state corporation hauling money away from core priorities of the ransacked citizens of the state of Illinois.
And let's not even get into "community pride."
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and staff need to put on their adult administrative duds and make a very simple decision:
Is CDI holding licenses of privilege in Illinois a factor of elevation for the best interests of the state or not?
And one final wireless to "Bunker Bill": Big-league corporations have big-league communications departments and capable, credible regional functionaries.
STREET-BEATIN': Jay Mariotti has written an ominous piece at barrettsportsmedia.com on the diminishment of The Athletic. (The all-sports website began with great venture backing and pockets of megastar national reporting; Too many flaws in its mechanics and the pandemic led to unfortunate layoffs and salary cuts last week.) ...
Local linkletter Doug Ghim is scheduled to tee off at 8:51 a.m. Thursday in the $7.5M Charles Schwab Challenge from spectator-free Colonial. (Live coverage Thursday and Friday on The Golf Channel begins at 8 a.m.; Final rounds on CBS Saturday and Sunday starting at 2 p.m.) ...
Sacramento Kings TV play-by-play man Grant Napear -- a 32-year veteran -- has been fired after tweeting, "All Lives Matter!!!!" ...
The announcement that DePaul athletic director Jeannie Lenti-Ponsetto is retiring brings to an end the tenure of a notably kind, gracious professional. (But, boy, did she have a blind spot when it came to hiring men's basketball coaches.) ...
Rafer Weigel has landed Microsoft as one of the first clients for his premiering Anchors Away LLC, a new-edge imaging firm. ...
Illinois horsemen chief Mike Campbell wants noted: "I have no personal animosity with management of Arlington Park. I was not at last Saturday's negotiating session at Hawthorne because I'm racing my stable right now at Tampa Bay Downs." ...
SportsPhone alumni David Schuster and Les Grobstein have launched a weekly podcast at bearsbarroom.podbean.com. (Schuster is insightful; Grobstein could do six hours about an empty shoe box -- as long as he got to keep the shoes.) ...
Michael Jordan and crew snagged a 442-pound blue marlin at a fishing tournament in North Carolina. (ESPN is planning a 23-part series on the catch.) ...
And balcony sage Mike Miller -- on the continued silence of Jerry Jones about flaring protests across the land -- deadpanned: "It wouldn't be the NFL if the Dallas Cowboys didn't have a (sheet) head white owner."
• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.