NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors defeat Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 to win NBA Championship
In an exciting Game 5, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 to the NBA Finals.
As Cary Edmondson and I had been trading between the elevated positions across from Cavs or Warriors bench, it was my turn for Warriors bench.
Which doesn't always mean Warriors bench because you are blocked by the basket, but isn't a terrible spot. I mean I'm photographing the NBA Finals!!
As we were helping Kyle Terada set up remotes, we were game planning where he might shoot from since he would be on the court in the 2nd and 3rd but not the 1st or 4th, and where would be the best stations for everyone for the potential trophy raising. As that plan formulated it became he would in my spot and at a timeout after the 7 minute mark, I would head down to the work room where I would put on the white vest, and then station in the tunnel where I needed to be by the 5 minutes remaining on the game clock in order to be accounted for before being escorted to the riser where we could shoot the trophy presentation.
This was a gamble. If the game was a close finish, I would miss the last 7 minutes of the deciding moments. If the game was a close finish and Warriors lost, then I would have missed the last 7 minutes for nothing. But trying to stay positive, I told myself, this is my opportunity. I will get to be on the court when Warriors celebrate. I might not have a guaranteed unobstructed shot like an elevated position, but I have the chance to make something that feels intimate. Covering sports isn't about capturing what people see on TV, it's trying to find fleeting moments that tell a lasting story and make you feel, not like you were there, but making you feel why it mattered.
So... I was first one in the tunnel, soon joined but other photographers and anxiously waited while we heard the cheers and breath holding of every play on the court wondering what we might be missing.
Not more than a few minutes later, the security guard approached me and said "you need to go back there" referencing about 50 feet FURTHER away from the court than I already was. I responded with "I was told to stand in the tunnel. I'm waiting to be escorted on the court for trophy presentation." "No, no green armband, green armband is for TV, they get out there first, you gotta go back there"... I looked around confused "no one else here has a green arm band and I have on the vest that allows me to be on the court for the trophy presentation" and he responded "No green arm band, you gotta go"... his tone started getting somewhat elevated and at these kind of events I find it's often not worth a fight. So I walked back and stood in the area, no longer in the tunnel but in the foyer hallway that wraps the entire arena. Soon after I was joined by another woman, escorted by a security guard who said "you stand here with her"... and none of my fellow non-green-arm-banded photographer buddies I had been standing with were told to come join us.
I've never felt like I was unable to do my job because I was a woman. I've never wanted to feel that. But I couldn't come up with any other reason that I would be pulled from a group where we all had the white vest and no green arm band. Of the horror stories I've heard of "you don't belong here" from the trailblazing female photojournalists who fought tooth and nail so I could do my job without a fight, I felt like I had an obligation to point out that we were NOT in the generation any more and told the security guard "I'll stand back here, I get that I don't have a green arm band and you are doing your job, but you gotta know how it looks when standing amongst a group of people without green arm bands, you only pull the woman out to come stand back here. I NEED to be with that group of photographers so I can be escorted to the risers with them."... "yeah, I'm getting them too." If that was true, I'm sure he wasn't being sexist but just saw me, who happens to be a woman, unconscious bias, as the easiest target to pull out first. But the other photographers never joined me.
Clock runs out, by the cheers you can tell the Warriors won, green arm bands and my fellow photographers are escorted on the court. I'm standing like a dog being told it has to wait for the "go ahead" before it can eat it's food, and I tell the security guard "I need to be out there. The game is over, I stood where I was supposed to. I'm wearing the vest that allows me on the court, the green arm band people are all already out there, please, I need to be out there, now!" probably with a bit of panic in my voice thinking I'm going to miss all the photos because I'm stuck in this purgatory. At this point he gained some sympathy for me and perhaps some respect since I had done as he asked without too much pushback and said "ok, come with me" and started walking me back to the tunnel entrance until another security guard stopped us, "no green arm band, you can't go"... I start trying to emphasize again, I NEED to be out there, but then as he turned away, the original security guard who initially pulled me out of the group instructed me "now's your chance, GO!"
So I beelined for the court and because I wasn't in the escorted group, I was able to get right in the mix and look for the first player I can spot. Javale McGee holding his baby. Sure, cute moment, but he didn't even play, so I take a few shots and move on.
Next Draymond holding his baby (so many babies!) that's great, good fun. But Durant is the story, if I could only find Durant.
Then, money. Not "Money Green", but money, Kevin Durant, and his mom.
I get what I can get then figure, I better head to that riser so that I'm not blocked by all these family and staff when the time the trophy presentation happens. Did I mention, babies?!
I get the rest of the trophy presentation. Return to the work room and pass the same security guard with an emphatic "thank you!!" and he asked "did you get what you needed?"... "yes, thank you again."
I hand off my cards to the photo editor and some of the other photographers in the work room see them and offer a "wow nice shot, how'd you get in the mix like that?"... I rolled my eyes and sighed "long story" and they respond as though they understood, "yeah, helps being a cute woman."
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