US Athletes Boycott Major Sporting Events to Protest Jacob Blake Shooting
The NBA and the WNBA postponed all three playoff games scheduled for Wednesday, August 27, after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play and other teams were expected to follow suit. The basketball teams are protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot several times in the back by a white police officer, in front of his children, while he was opening his car door. Though he survived, a bullet to his spinal cord has paralyzed him, according to the BBC.
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities,” Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown said in a statement. He added, “Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings. Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protesters. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
Atlanta Dream WNBA player Elizabeth Williams also said, via a statement, “We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA, and will continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action.” Prominent NBA stars like LeBron James have also registered their strong discomfort with police brutality.
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This is a major moment of unity and protest against the violation of Black U.S. citizens’ civil rights. The first Black athlete to publicly protest in support of BLM was Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the U.S. national anthem as a means of voicing his opposition to the killings of unarmed Black people. While Kaepernick received heavy backlash and faced severe professional consequences for his actions, the current NBA and WNBA boycott has been met with swift support from prominent political voices, perhaps signaling a change in mainstream acceptance of the Black Lives Matter movement.
American Major League baseball teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and the Seattle Mariners also announced they wouldn’t play. In a joint statement, the teams said, “With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression.”
Japanese/Black tennis star Naomi Osaka also pulled out of The ATP tournament a few hours ago to protest Blake’s shooting and police brutality.
Women’s Tennis Association tournament organizers also said the tournament will be suspended until Friday. In a statement, they said, “As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States.”
American sports journalist William Rhoden wrote in The Undefeated, “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? Don’t play.”