Even in this crazy world turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, last week was an unprecedented one in the professional sports realm as the entire industry came to a halt because of the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Athletes were already demonstrating against police violence toward minorities, following George Floyd’s death by asphyxia while having his neck knelt on by a police officer in Minneapolis in May, as well as Breonna Taylor’s incidental shooting death by police officers executing a no-knock search warrant in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.
Then on Aug. 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back multiple times by a police officer and left paralyzed from the waist down.
This was the incident that caused America’s athletes to say, “Enough is enough.” It began last Wednesday when the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, who are based in Wisconsin, refused to take the court for Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic.
Others quickly followed suit. The rest of the NBA and the entirety of the WNBA halted play for multiple days. In Major League Baseball, the Seattle Mariners, who have the most Black players of any team in the league, were among the first to boycott games. Games were also postponed in MLS and the NHL. Tennis star Naomi Osaka temporarily dropped out of the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open in protest. The Seattle Seahawks canceled practice Saturday to ensure every player on the roster was registered to vote, and coach Pete Carroll delivered an impassioned 15-minute statement urging white Americans to learn more about the realities of living Black in America.
The athletes have been supported in their protests by their leagues. The NBA players only resumed playing Saturday after reaching an agreement with the league on taking steps to promote social justice and civic engagement, beginning with turning team facilities into voting locations for the 2020 election in November. The other leagues have resumed play as well.
While the scale of demonstrations is unprecedented, the crossing of sports and social issues is not unique. From heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali having his title stripped for refusing to fight in Vietnam in 1967, to the U.S. boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem because or racial inequities in the nation, sports have been used as a platform for speaking out on social issues.
So what about this instance? Are you accepting of professional athletes postponing games as a protest against police violence toward minorities? Let us know by voting in this week’s Seattle Sidelines poll.