ESPN analyst Jalen Rose waited until just before a commercial break to deliver the bluntest of his reactions to Wednesday’s Kentucky grand jury decision not to indict any of the Louisville cops involved in the killing of Black woman Breonna Taylor with homicide charges.
Rose shouted a refrain familiar to members of the Black Lives Matter movement: “It would also be a great day to arrest the cops that murdered Breonna Taylor.” His comment came during coverage of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals between the Heat and Celtics.
Taylor was shot to death by three officers in March after they rammed into her apartment without knocking. They carried a drug-related warrant for her ex-boyfriend, but he was not at the residence and there were no drugs found. Taylor’s then-boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired his gun once at the police when they entered, thinking them to be intruders, and struck an officer in the leg. The cops returned fire with a barrage of bullets that killed Taylor and pierced through walls and into a neighboring apartment.
One of the officers, Brett Hankison, was arrested Wednesday and charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for his alleged indiscriminate fire, but the other two cops did not receive any charges from the grand jury announcement. Hankison was released from jail after paying off his $15,000 bail.
Taylor’s death was one of several that prompted nationwide protests against police brutality this summer and strengthened a Black Lives Matter activist movement working to increase justice while curbing systemic racism in the U.S. The police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd in late-May also played a primary role in pushing people to protest.
Police force against Black people has prompted demonstrations on many occasions in recent decades, but few unified stretches of outrage have been as sustained or powerful as the current moment.
Anticipating backlash to the Kentucky grand jury decision regarding the officers who entered Taylor’s apartment, Louisville officials announced a curfew through at least Friday. On Wednesday night, however, protesters did not heed that instruction.
NBA athletes have been particularly outspoken about social justice issues this summer, reflecting on their own experiences with law enforcement and empathizing with the stories of others. Many of them feel Black people in the U.S. have long been mistreated by police and are advocating for reforms, such as an end to the no-knock warrant that played a part in Taylor’s death.
As a result, Rose was among a series of current and former players dismayed by the choice not to charge anyone involved in the killing of Taylor with homicide.
His method of conveying his message was as strong as any seen in the NBA community on Wednesday — and an unusual remark for a network that has at times attempted to swerve from sensitive political issues.