Jacob Blake was shot seven times and paralyzed by police in Wisconsin. So as the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics kicked around the idea of protesting Game 1 of their second-round playoff game on Thursday night, it was only right that the Milwaukee Bucks were the first NBA team to strike and protest the heinous shooting by not participating in Game 5 of the team’s second-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic.
The move sent shockwaves through sports and soon the Houston Rockets and OKC Thunder joined the strike, refusing to take the court for their game. LeBron’s Lakers and Dame’s Trailblazers opted out as well, forcing the NBA to postpone all games and putting themselves and their sport at the center of the discussion about racism and equality in America.
The NBA’s protest against the shooting of Jacob Blake quickly gained steam and grew into a sports-wide issue. Several MLB games were postponed as players such as Matt Kemp, Jason Heyward and Dexter Fowlerm Mokie Betts, Clayton Kershaw and Jack Flaherty decided to sit out the game in protest as well.
Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka joined the movement, exercising her freedom to forfeit the next round of her tennis match in support of the Black men murdered and maimed at the hands of police officers who were sworn to serve and protect.
One of the more shocking protests of the night happened on TNT. Co-host Kenny Smith walked off the set in the middle of the broadcast, leaving Ernie Johnson on set by himself.
The WNBA has been a leading force in this rejuvenated battle for social equality from the beginning. They were the first pro league to have players such as Renee Montgomery and Natasha Cloud opt-out of the Wubble Season to instead focus on advocacy and continuing social justice initiatives. It was no surprise that they were not only forceful and direct but in addition to postponing games, they were creative and visually impactful with their method of protest.
If any sport needs a racial reevaluation, cleansing, and reconstruction from the fans to the players, it’s soccer. The stories of soccer players enduring racism and bigotry from fans, coaches, media and opposing players are common. The sport’s culture at the international level is widely criticized, even from within its own ranks. At this moment, MLS players and organizations felt strongly enough about what was transpiring throughout the sports world to postpone games. That’s a good sign.
The NHL even had a “moment of reflection” and had a sign on the jumbotron that read “End Racism” before the Lightening-Bruins game on Wednesday night. That gesture, however, wasn’t good enough for Black NHL star Evander Kane.
It’s hockey though…what can we really expect?
What Will The NFL Do?
Obviously, all eyes will now turn to the NFL which is currently conducting business as usual, running camps and promising to endure through a COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of all this social unrest, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still talking about the anthem, negotiating the appropriateness of kneeling and appearing very much out of touch with the times.
The Detroit Lions were actually the first pro team to protest the Jacob Blake shooting when they postponed practice to instead send a message.
NFL owners have been reluctant to support player protests going back to when Colin Kaepernick birthed the entire movement we are currently witnessing by kneeling during the national anthem in protest against social injustice, racism and police brutality after the cops killed Mario Woods.
The controversy it sparked and the oppressive tactics used by owners and politicians to misdirect Kaepernick’s hero’s message is still an open wound the NFL has yet to properly nurse.
Since June, Commissioner Roger Goodell has twice admitted to being wrong about how the league handled Kaepernick’s protest and admits that the Black Lives Matter movement was misinterpreted and undervalued by the league’s owners and hierarchy.
The NBA players will have further discussions about their plan of action and how they will go about possibly restarting the playoffs at a certain point. According to reports, the league is fractured on that issue. The Lakers and Clippers supposedly took a vote during Wednesday’s meeting and decided to boycott the rest of the playoffs. Other teams are against that idea.
The dialogue will continue as the players will meet today and we will all have a better idea of what their next steps will be. The games tonight will probably be postponed as well. The message is being sent and the pressure is being applied, and it will take a while for this to play out. Now we need to know what the unified goal is and how the players will transfer this energy outside of the bubble.