LOS ANGELES — Sterling Brown will forever remember the events of Aug. 26, 2020. That’s the day that he joined his then-Milwaukee Bucks teammate — George Hill – in deciding not play in a playoff game in the bubble against the Orlando Magic.
Shortly thereafter, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and the remainder of the Bucks followed suit, as did the other teams playing in the bubble, including the Dallas Mavericks.
All of this came after an unarmed black man – Jacob Blake – was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23, 2020. Brown and other NBA players seriously considered ending the season prematurely, but instead worked with owners to use arenas as voting locations, and they also offered a strong push for police reform.
“It was extremely important just to support each other, support my teammates and even take a stand for something bigger than us,” said Brown, who is now a guard with the Mavs. “We put the world on notice, we turned a lot of heads and made a lot of noise.
“We tried to do what we could do to make a difference and help somebody – help a family get justice, and just dissect the whole situation to where it’s fair. It was extremely important for us to do it that way.”
In the end, American Airlines Center even became one of 23 NBA arenas that were used as a place where folks could go vote during the 2020 presidential election.
“Voting, that’s a touchy subject for me,” Brown told Mavs.com. “But we made changes, not just in the voting sector, but in the social and criminal justice (sectors).
“We were able to talk to the higher ranks, senators and the mayor and the police chief in Milwaukee. So, it definitely was a good look on that end.”
For Brown, what wasn’t a good look is the fact that 18-year Kyle Rittenhouse, who faced homicide charges after killing two men during anti-racism protests in Kenosha in the wake of the Blake shooting, was acquitted Friday of all charges on the grounds of self-defense.
Also, Brown reiterated that he himself was unlawfully arrested on Jan. 26, 2018 at 2 a.m. in Milwaukee when he was parked across two handicap spots at a Walgreen’s drug store. A stun gun was used to arrest Brown, and police body camera footage showed that Brown was thrown to the pavement.
The video footage also revealed a Milwaukee police officer stepping on Brown’s ankle while other officers made light of Brown potentially filing a civil rights complaints.
Brown, who said he feared for his life, eventually filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee and its police department and ultimately walked away with a $750,000 settlement.
“My situation happened, but I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep living my life, keep moving forward and helping make it easier for the next man that faces that every day on a regular basis,” Brown said. “It’s a fight that we’re continuing to fight, and it’s really not going to be over no time soon.
“We’ve got to keep pushing.”
Before the start of the 2018 NBA Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver talked about Brown’s ordeal in Milwaukee in reverent tone.
“I saw the video for the first time when the public saw it,” Silver said. “It was horrific. For any of us, regardless to the fact that he was an NBA player, it was difficult to watch.
“It’s painful. I would say as a result of police officers wearing cameras on their body — the transparency that the Internet now provides through that sort of distribution — my sense is it’s not necessarily the case that society has changed in the last few years. It’s a reality in our country right now that there’s a disconnect between young people of color and police officers.”
In addition to his situation in Milwaukee, Brown suffered facial lacerations seven months ago from some unknown assailants during an altercation outside a business in Miami while he was in town for a basketball game. At the time, Brown was playing for the Houston Rockets.
Brown said: “I ain’t going to speak on that right nThis past offseason, Brown signed a two-year, $6 million free agent contract with the Mavs, who will play the Los Angeles Clippers at STAPLES Center on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. CT. Although Brown hasn’t played but 12.2 minutes per game while averaging 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds, the Mavs view him as a very valuable piece to their puzzle.
Kidd coached Brown during the latter’s rookie season when Kidd was the coach of the Bucks.
“Sterling’s been great for us,” Kidd said. “We had Sterling in Milwaukee, so we know who he is. He’s a true pro.”
Brown feels fortunate to be with the Mavs. Particularly since he played his college ball at SMU and already knows his way around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
“The team, coaches, the organization is embracing me well,” Brown said. “I’m just trying to find my niche, trying to find my groove with the team right now. I just got to keep working, man.
“The shots are going to fall, the game is going to come to me. I just can’t over-think it. I just got to keep playing and get my groove.”
Brown faced similar challenges when he arrived at SMU after attending the same high school – Proviso East High School in Maywood, Ill – that produced Mavs assistant general manager Michael Finley.
“It was a learning experience overall, facing ups and some downs while I was there,” Brown said of his tenure at SMU. “But I got better as a player, I did what I had to do, I put in the work.
Brown used that collegiate experience to become a second-round draft pick in 2017. Now, he’s putting that experience to good use.
“Whenever he’s called upon, he does his job at a high level,” Kidd said. “He works on his craft every day, so we’re very lucky to have him.”