Black athletes and their allies across the U.S. sports world are fed up. And they’re done just telling people their lives matter, now they’re showing them just how much. In a show of solidarity Wednesday, days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, players across the NBA, WNBA, MLB and tennis are boycotting games, asking for justice for Blake and calling for an end to racism, injustice and discrimination.
The unprecedented boycotts started when the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks – who are from Wisconsin where Blake was shot seven times in the back in front of his children – refused to take the court in their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic.
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings,” The Bucks said in a statement. “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action so our focus today cannot be on basketball. … We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable.”
Their decision was supported by Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry.
“Some things are bigger than basketball,” Lasry tweeted Wednesday. “The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change.”
After the Bucks’ courageous move (they broke their own contract, which prohibits strikes), the NBA announced it would postpone all three playoff games for the night involving the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers.
The Lakers and the Clippers even voted to just throw the whole season away and LeBron James reportedly walked out of a meeting over the unrest. The three-time NBA champion also tweeted, “F**CK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT.”
James’ Lakers teammate JR Smith also took to his Instagram stories and said “Oh you don’t hear us…. Well now you can’t see us!!!!”
It proved to be a domino effect. Within hours players from the WNBA announced they would also refrain from playing. Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream read a statement on behalf of the players.
“The consensus is to not play tonight 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,” Williams said in a statement on behalf of the league.
Players from the Washington Mystics drove the point home by wearing t-shirts that spelled Blake’s name when they kneeled together. Each shirt also had seven red dots on the back to symbolize the seven times Blake was shot.
“This isn’t just about basketball, we aren’t just basketball players … we need to understand that when most of us go home, we still are Black,” Mystics guard Ariel Atkins told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in an interview. “We need t understand these moment are so much more bigger than us. … We have cousins, we have brothers, we have sisters, mothers, everyone. We matter. And I think that’s important. I think people should know that and I’m tired of telling people that. … If you have a problem with us saying Black Lives matter you need to check your privilege.”
The MLB postponed three of its games and released a statement supporting the fight against racism and injustice, according to CNN.
“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight,” a league statement says. “Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.”
MLB teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres all released team statements voicing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon, who is Black, tweeted his team’s decision was unanimous.
“There are serious issues in this country,” “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends. Our team voted unanimously not to play tonight.”
Champion tennis player Naomi Osaka – who is Black and Asian – also announced her decision to sit out the Western and Southern Open semifinals on Twitter.
Osaka posted a statement on Twitter which read in part: “ … before I am a athlete, I am a Black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. … Watching the continued genocide of my people is honestly making me sick to my stomach.”
The wave of athletes’ protests came a day after the Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers got emotional when speaking about racism and inequality.
“We’ve been hung, we’ve been shot and all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back and it’s just really so sad,” Rivers said.
“Inside The NBA” host Kenny Smith also stood in solidarity with the players, walking off the show and refusing to host Wednesday.
“This is tough. I mean right now my head is like ready to explode, like just in the thoughts of what’s going on. I don’t even know if I’m even appropriate enough to say it, what the players are feeling and how they’re feeling. I haven’t talked to any of the players. Coming in and even like driving here and getting into the studio, hearing calls and people talking … And for me, I think the biggest thing now … as a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight and figure out what happens after that. I just don’t feel equipped to be here,” Smith said as he disconnected his mic and walked off set.
The NBA announced Thursday morning the players voted to resume playoffs, according to CBS Sports. The boycott did open the door for the Bucks to speak with Wisconsin’s Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. This “led to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers calling a special session of the State Legislature and urge “lawmakers to vote on a legislative package that includes police reform,” CCS Sports reported.
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