I love sports. I love the comradery, the competitiveness and the athleticism. I love that sports bring all types of people – that normally wouldn’t have anything in common – together. The love for the game is a common thread in a lot of friend groups. I love the athletes who fuel the sports world. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Muhammad Ali, DeSean Jackson, Serena and Venus Williams, Jackie Robinson, Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, and so many more.
With most love affairs, my love for the sports world has also been met with disappointment. I was disappointed in 2016 for the lack of support and backlash Colin Kaepernack received for taking a knee in protesting police brutality. Colin Kaepernack, who played six seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, decided to take a knee during the national anthem ahead of a game in protest of the racism and police brutality occurring in 2016. Many players, coaches, fans and even people in the White House were extremely and vocally against his actions. It led to many doors being closed for the talented quarterback and ultimately ended his professional football career.
On Wednesday night, in response to the shooting of yet another unarmed Black man named Jacob Blake, the Milwaukee Bucks players staged a walk-out before the start of Game 5 at the Bucks-Magic game. The walk-out inspired several other cancellations – the Rockets and Thunder decided not to play, along with the Lakers and Trail Blazers. As word continued to get out, the WNBA, MLB and MLS games were boycotted as well.
Later that day, Marc Lasry (Bucks owner) released a statement: “We fully support our players and the decision they made. Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change.”
I don’t know how much I believe these coaches especially since the sentiment was so different four years ago when Kaep protested. In fact, he was exiled from the league, punished for not being American enough and was forced out of a career he had built for years. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the protest comes in the same week as Mamba Day (8/24) and on the four year anniversary of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee (9/1/2016).
Although it’s too soon to tell how much of an impact this will make on police brutality, I think the visibility and the power that these athletes hold is unmatched. The NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS have used their collective voice to say we have had enough and will no longer stand for the brutal and viral killing of innocent, unarmed Black people in this world. It is a huge issue and a huge platform that they are choosing to stand on and are hoping to be backed by their coaches and management.
After long discussions in the bubble, as of Thursday morning, the NBA has agreed to resume the games. It wasn’t however a unanimous decision, the Lakers and Clippers pushed to end the season. LeBron James hopes the coaches and staff will be more involved and show more initiative to take action. You can also read the statement from the Bucks’ players following yesterday’s decision to not play.
Photo via The New York Times