On Wednesday, professional sports came to a complete halt. The National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, Women’s National Basketball Association, and Major League Soccer all saw major boycotts over the shooting of Jacob Blake, an African-American man from Kenosha, Wisc. who was shot in the back seven times by a white member of the small city’s police force.
The boycott avalanche started when the Milwaukee Bucks, whose home is about 30 miles from where Blake was shot, decided to boycott their playoff game with the Orlando Magic. Here is their statement.
“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
Sterling Brown and George Hill read a prepared statement from the Milwaukee Bucks players.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 26, 2020
Despite attempts to paint professional athletes as privileged and ungrateful, it is important to keep in mind that neither their money nor status protects them from abuse by law enforcement. Sterling Brown, a member of the Bucks and the son of a police officer, is a prime example. Two years ago, Milwaukee police wrestled him to the ground, tased him, and hauled him off to jail over what they claimed was a parking violation.
By Wednesday night, play had not only been suspended for the NBA, the boycott had been joined by most professional sport leagues. Two-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka also pulled out of a tennis tournament. The WNBA’s Washington Mystics staged a powerful statement as part of their protest.
The Washington Mystics pic.twitter.com/nJ0Xhik6NY
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) August 26, 2020
All of this took place on the fourth anniversary of the first time Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police shootings of unarmed Black people. You might recall that both the San Francisco 49ers Quarterback and the athletes who joined him became political fodder for Trump and his enablers—and the shootings continued.
So what happens now? No one knows. But William Rhoden summed the situation up well.
What do you say when words are not enough, when gestures are no longer sufficient? What happens when your actions are no longer seen, your words fall on deaf ears and all that is left is unsatisfied justice?
Meanwhile, now would be a good time for the country to actually listen to what these folks are saying. Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers obviously spoke from the heart.
‘We keep loving this country and this country does not love us back’ — NBA coach Doc Rivers was visibly shaken while discussing the shooting of Jacob Blake & police brutality in the U.S. pic.twitter.com/SNT0WdzhHF
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 27, 2020
Just as these coaches and athletes stopped playing, Trevor Noah dropped the comedy and got angry.
Why do the police decide that some threats must be extinguished, while other threats get defused? We know the answer. pic.twitter.com/3GpyT8zEhf
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) August 27, 2020
That was similar to what Letetra Widman, Jacob Blake’s sister, said about how she’s feeling these days.
“Don’t be sorry, because this has been happening to my family for a long time. It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family. Philando, Mike Brown, Sandra. I’ve been watching police murder people who look like me for years.” – Jacob Blake’s sister pic.twitter.com/oH4joFMoWk
— pdx law grrrl (@pdxlawgrrrl) August 25, 2020
Black people, whether they’re athletes or not, are telling us that the killing by police officers has to stop. With protests in the streets and a halt to most professional sports, what is it going to take to make that happen?