Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) said Wednesday that the officers’ use of force was justified because Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a weapon first. Walker has disputed that account. Hankison was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree for shooting into a neighboring apartment; the two other officers were not charged with any crimes.
Numerous NBA stars, including Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George, repeatedly mentioned Taylor’s shooting as a major point of advocacy once the NBA bubble opened at Disney World in July. Players honored Taylor’s memory with T-shirts and custom sneakers, and they directly asked for the officers in the case to be arrested on numerous occasions. During one interview, George told reporters he would not address basketball questions and would only discuss Taylor’s case.
James did not speak with reporters Wednesday, but he posted Twitter messages addressing the ruling.
“I’ve been lost for words today!” James wrote. “I’m devastated, hurt, sad, mad! We want Justice for Breonna yet justice was met for her neighbors apartment walls and not her beautiful life. Was I surprised at the verdict. Absolutely not but d--- it I was & still am hurt and heavy hearted! I send my love to Breonna mother, family and friends! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
James added: “The most DISRESPECTED person on earth is THE BLACK WOMAN! I promise you I’ll do my best to change this as much as I can and even more!! LOVE to you QUEENS all over this country and beyond!”
Lakers guard Danny Green told reporters Wednesday that James texted the grand jury’s findings to his teammates, who were preparing to have a team meeting between Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals.
“Nobody was really happy about it,” Green said. “It was disappointing. I guess in a sense something was done, but it wasn’t enough. Most guys thought it was definitely not enough. … Prayers out to her family. We’re still thinking of them. We’re still seeking justice for them as well as many others. … We need a lot more progress made than what has been today.”
Multiple players on the Denver Nuggets, including Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant, have spoken out on behalf of Taylor’s family while competing in the bubble. Murray wore a tribute to Taylor and George Floyd on his sneakers earlier in the playoffs.
“In life, you find things that hold value to you,” Murray told TNT during the first round of the playoffs. “Things to fight for. We found something worth fighting for as an NBA, as a collective unit. I use these shoes as a symbol to keep fighting. These shoes give me life. Even though these people are gone, they help me find strength.”
Nuggets Coach Michael Malone called Taylor’s death “tragic” after his team addressed the shooting in a Wednesday meeting.
“I just put myself in Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend’s shoes,” Malone said. “I’m in my apartment, wherever I am living. Somebody breaks into my house at 2 or 3 in the morning. I am going to feel like somebody should not be there. … I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially speaking out on justice for Breonna Taylor. We have not gotten that justice. That’s a shame. Hopefully that will change at some point.”
Malone has worn a T-shirt calling for justice in response to the death of Elijah McClain after a violent arrest by police and a dose of a heavy sedative by paramedics in Aurora, Colo., and he linked the two deaths in his comments Wednesday.
“When I think about the tragedy of those police officers getting off, it also makes me think a lot closer to home [about] Elijah McClain,” Malone said. “We’re still demanding justice for the police officers who were involved in the death of Elijah McClain. That is still not the case. That’s just been tragic.”
The NBA playoffs were halted for three days last month when the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to take the court in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat played Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night, with Game 4 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets scheduled for Thursday.
Earlier this month, Black Lives Matter protesters held a demonstration near the front entrance of the NBA bubble, seeking justice for Salaythis Melvin, who was shot and killed by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy in Orlando. Those peaceful protesters, who entered the roadway and briefly blocked two media shuttle busses, called on James and other NBA stars to support their cause.
Outside the bubble, the wider NBA community expressed outrage at the grand jury’s findings in the Taylor case on Twitter.
Utah Jazz all-star guard Donovan Mitchell and Los Angeles Clippers center Montrezl Harrell, who both played at the University of Louisville, both expressed shock at the charging decisions, with Harrell noting that he was “SPEECHLESS!”
“I don’t have many words right now,” Mitchell wrote. “All I can say is I’m praying for the city of Louisville right now!!!”
Other players and former players eyed what they perceive as wider failings of the criminal justice system.
“The cops that murdered Breonna Taylor knew this is how it would play out from the moment it happened,” veteran guard Jamal Crawford wrote on Twitter. “They were never worried about justice being served. In every way, they try and remind us Black lives don’t matter.. We will ALWAYS matter!!!!! They treat animals with more respect in this country than they do black lives.”
Kendrick Perkins, an ESPN commentator who spent 14 seasons in the NBA, added: “Slap on the Wrist for Murder but I got family members doing 25 years to LIFE for drug charges!!! Unreal.”
“It’s just so demoralizing and so discouraging,” said Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, a longtime proponent of increasing gun regulations, during a video conference call with reporters. “I just keep thinking about the generation of American kids of any color: Is this the world they will live in? There’s so much violence. There’s so much shooting. It comes in so many forms. School shootings, vigilantism, police brutality, neighbor-to-neighbor. There’s just so much violence, and it’s demoralizing when we can’t hold anyone to account for it.”
Michele Roberts, the head of the NBA players’ union, helped set up the bubble with an eye toward furthering the players’ social justice efforts.
“Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her. Our players and I once again extend our deepest sympathies to her family, and we vow to continue working in her honor and to always say her name.”
Taylor’s case also has been prominent in the WNBA’s bubble, and that league’s players and coaches expressed anger at the ruling.
“It’s kind of disgusting to see. … We’re still going to continue to fight for all women who have been brutally murdered,” Seattle Storm center Mercedes Russell said. “We’re going to continue to fight for women, Black women, whatever the case may be, and continue to use our voice and our platform. What happened today was unreal.”
“It’s just crazy how they charged him but didn’t charge him for what they did to Breonna Taylor,” Storm forward Natasha Howard said. “It’s just crazy. Right now, it’s kind of hard to put into words. We’re still fighting for justice for her. It’s frustrating, to be honest. Really frustrating. Us as Black women, we’ve got to stick together and just keep pushing for justice.”
Kareem Copeland contributed to this report.