By Jack Herr, Staff Writer
This past week was an important time for sports. Earlier this year, we saw sports halt due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, we saw sports halt briefly in protest against the continued injustice that Black Americans face from police.
On August 23, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back during an altercation with police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake’s attorney says that he was paralyzed by the event. The incident set off more protests around the country, hoping to further illuminate the blatant police brutality we see at an alarming rate.
The sports world, which has been very connected with the social justice protests, took notice of the shooting of Jacob Blake and responded. The NBA, which has been especially involved with social justice reform this year, decided to strike and not play their scheduled playoff games. This was an unprecedented, powerful move from the league to spread awareness of Jacob Blake’s shooting and other incidents of police brutality.
The strike started with the Milwaukee Bucks, who reside in Wisconsin, and was especially hit hard by the shooting of Jacob Blake. It quickly spread to all teams, everyone violating their contract to protest police brutality. Bucks players united in a message to “demand the officers be held accountable” for their violence against Jacob Blake.
The Los Angeles Lakers released their own statement, saying “eighty percent of NBA players are Black men. We cannot love them for the joy and entertainment that they bring to the world, yet sit in silence and fail to use our platforms and resources to amplify their voices…”.
The WNBA took a similarly powerful stand as the NBA, postponing games for two days and sending a message of solidarity with victims of police brutality. Los Angeles Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike emphasized that it was not a strike. She continued, “This is not a boycott. This is affirmatively a day of reflection. A day of informed action and mobilization.”
Several MLB teams followed the NBA’s steps and postponed several games. The New York Mets and Miami Marlins took the field for a 42 second moment of silence, honoring Jackie Robinson, who wore number 42 and broke the color barrier in major league baseball. Before leaving the field, Marlins’ player Lewis Brinson laid a Black Lives Matter shirt at home plate.
And even though the NFL is in the offseason, teams around the league canceled practices. New Orleans Saints players embossed their helmets with “Jacob Blake,” and teams released statements in support of the ongoing protests in sports and in society.
While teams will start playing again, the brief but united postponements of their games advocate for important messages. Athletes and teams have become incredibly vocal in the fight for social justice. While some fans may cherish the generally apolitical nature of sports, we are in a different time where many athletes see a need for action that needs to be taken.