Chances are pretty good the Atlanta Hawks are on their way to being swept in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals, and considering a banged up LeBron James is getting it done sans the services of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, that’s no small feat. I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest the Hawks would be making it more of a series if G Thabo Sefolosha wasn’t recovering from a broken leg, but The Nation’s Dave Zirin asks the reasonable question why the cause of Sefolosha’s injury isn’t a bigger talking point during these playoffs (“this represents a timidity that takes a story which could act as a lens toward educating people about a national crisis and consigns it to the dustbin”)
This near-silence has been across the sports media landscape, so it feels churlish to pick on one example, but it was both too high-profile and too evocative to ignore. On Thursday morning, Mike Greenberg, hosting ESPN’s national Mike and Mike radio show, talked about how the Hawks could possibly be able to guard LeBron without Carroll, and mentioned Thabo’s absence as well. In describing for his audience why Thabo isn’t playing, all Mike Greenberg said was, “We all know what happened there.” That was it. No mention of the NYPD, the conflicting stories, or the fact that NBA players have gone out of their way to speak about police mistreatment. Just “We all know what happened there.” Actually, we don’t all know what happened there, and that’s the point. Instead of retelling or even illuminating what we know, this line was dead on arrival. And yet “we all know what happened there” were six words more than most sports media offered this past week. Even the notably outspoken TNT team of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley had nothing to say about it on Inside the NBA, broadcast immediately after the Hawks lost to Cleveland and in the aftermath of Carroll’s injury. Yes, given Shaq’s history as a volunteer police officer and Barkley’s own comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, it might not have exactly been a rousing call for social justice, but to not even mention it was bizarre. Even Marv Albert discussed Sefolosha briefly during the broadcast. But to the TNT studio team, he was the invisible man.