As America ducked out early or opened tabs to watch Game 5 between the Orlando Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bucks were planning something different. That something different may have altered the sports landscape forever as athletes harnessed their power in a way not seen since the days of Bill Russell.
When the teams were scheduled to take the floor for shootaround and warmups, the Magic reported but the Bucks did not. Milwaukee stayed in the locker room deciding whether or not to boycott today’s game over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Three days previous, Blake had been shot seven times, from point blank range in the back by an officer. Blake is currently paralyzed and doctors are unsure if he will walk again. The event occurred in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The NBA Restart has been highlighted not just by feats of athleticism, but by the players standing up against the inequality and police brutality that has marred the American experience since its inception. The players have given thoughtful and touching calls for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and now Jacob Blake. We’ve heard an emotional Doc Rivers talk about America not loving African-Americans.
We’ve seen players like Chris Paul take an on-court interview and spend the entire time calling for justice. From the words on the back of player’s jerseys to kneeling during the national anthem, the NBA has been fighting for equality and, more importantly, to be heard.
By refusing to take the court today. Milwaukee showed the power of athletes in a transcendent way. Following their heroic actions, we saw all four teams scheduled to play the rest of the night boycott their games as well. Every NBA player remaining in the bubble participated in a meeting tonight to decide the next course of action and whether or not the playoffs should continue. Would the players be better at effectuating change from the bubble or by going home and actively participating in marches and protests of their own?
After the NBA and the players made their announcement, the Milwaukee Brewers elected not to play their game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Seattle Mariners, the Major League Baseball team with the most black players elected to not play their game as well. The Dodgers, the team that helped integrate baseball, chose not play as well. From MLB to Major League Soccer, all games that had not already started when the Bucks made their decision, were postponed because of racial injustice.
The WNBA players also made the decision to not play tonight, but it would be a great disservice to the athletes who make up the sport to say they were influenced by the Milwaukee Bucks. The WNBA has been on the forefront of the fight for equality and justice without the fanfare or public recognition they deserve. The WNBA stood up to team owner Senator Kelly Loeffler for her stance on Black Lives Matter and have been vocal for justice for Breonna Taylor even putting her name on all the jerseys. Today, all competitors kneeled alongside one another and the Mystics wore white shirts with seven bloody gunshot wounds on the back. These women deserve our endless respect.
As we stand tonight, we don’t know how much longer this boycott will last, but I am sure whatever the athletes decide will be the right course of action. They have used their voices to empower and illuminate. The coming days should be no different.