Professional sports organizations boycott in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement

September 4, 2020

As Representative John Lewis once reminded us, we must “never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” That is exactly what professional athletes across various sports have been up to—halting their usual programs in an effort to spark necessary change. Activism on this platform is at an all time high, with continued events surrounding racism and police brutality prompting sports stars to take a stand, use their powerful voices and bring light to the fact that our society is broken and needs fixing.

The Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray took the floor against the Utah Jazz on Sunday night, unveiling a custom pair of Adidas sneakers with the faces of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the sides. After scoring 50-points in the Nugget’s win, Murray credited his shoes for his relentless performance, saying, “These shoes give me life. Even though these people are gone, they give me life. They help me find strength,” according to an article by CNN.

Before this game, the Milwaukee Bucks sparked a number of postponed competitions within the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World—where the Bucks refused to play in their playoff series against the Orlando Magic just after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers quickly followed, participating in the boycott of all NBA games on Aug. 26. 

In their statement to the public, point guard George Hill spoke on behalf of the Bucks organization, saying, “When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort, and hold each other accountable. We are demanding the same of lawmakers and law enforcement,” reads an article by Good Morning America

Although these playoff series have since resumed, the NBA has not slowed down in their efforts to make good trouble. On the same night of the announcement of the postponed games, basketball analyst and TNT host Kenny Smith walked off the set of his show “Inside the NBA,” commenting, “Sometimes I think in life you have to join the march, and that was my statement of joining the march,” according to an article from Today. The boycott and walkout led to the call for a player’s meeting inside the bubble, with members from all playoff teams gathering to discuss their demands for social justice. 

As a product of that meeting, the league shared a list of commitments to further support the current movement, including the push for NBA arenas to be used as COVID-19 friendly polling places for the 2020 presidential election. A joint statement from the NBA and the National Basketball Player’s Association reads, “In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID,” announcing this definitive plan. 

Point guard Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who also serves as the President of the NBPA, has since announced that all members of his team are registered to vote, encouraging the rest of the league to join them, according to a CBS Sports article

While the Bucks spearheaded the game boycott for the NBA, the Washington Mystics took the lead for the WNBA, deciding not to play their game against the Atlanta Dream on that same Wednesday evening, Aug. 26. The Mystics arrived at the arena in Bradenton, FL wearing white t-shirts that spelled out “Jacob Blake” on the front and showed 7 bullet holes on the back of each shirt. The team kneeled during the regularly scheduled National Anthem before exiting the floor, with the league as a whole cancelling play for that night. 

Mystics guard Natasha Cloud, who had already opted out of the summer season to instead devote her time to fighting for social reform, has spoken to the idea that taking action during times like these spans far beyond the game of basketball. In an earlier letter to the Players’ Tribune titled “Your Silence is a Knee on My Neck,” Cloud spoke directly to her athlete community, saying, “Athletes, if you’re reading this… know that we see you. I’ll repeat that: WE SEE YOU… [sic] I’m so proud to be one of y’all. But you’re being judged right now the same as everyone else—and if you’re silent, you are part of the problem.

As a whole, the professional athlete community has been anything but silent on these matters. From Major League Baseball adorning their mounds with the Black Lives Matter logo, to Naomi Osaka wearing a mask that read, “Breonna Taylor” as she entered the arena for the U.S. Open, the world of sports has continued to lead in this ongoing battle for racial equality. Athletes everywhere are taking every chance they get to speak up, make a statement and use their platforms in an effort to recognize the importance of black lives. May we all follow their lead and do the same.

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