Sports World Shutdown | Jasmine Elasaad
On August 23rd, 2020, Jacob Blake, a young Black man, was shot by police officer Rusten Sheskey seven times in the back as he leaned into his SUV in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake was gravely wounded; he was paralyzed from the waist down and suffered from extensive damage to his stomach, kidney, liver, and arm. The entire incident was captured on a viral video, and many witnesses attest that the man was unarmed and not acting violently towards the police officers prior to the shooting. After hearing of this tragedy, the Milwaukee Bucks, led by point guard George Hill, took action. But never could they have imagined that their spur-of-the-moment decision to boycott one playoff game in response to the shooting would ignite a huge series of protests among star athletes across various sports leagues that as a result, effectively shut down the sports world for a limited time.
It all started on the afternoon of August 26th, the day the Milwaukee Bucks were scheduled to play against the Orlando Magic in the NBA’s Walt Disney World Bubble. The Milwaukee Bucks waited in their locker room just before their playoff game was set to begin and refused to enter the court to start the game. The Orlando Magic, inspired by the actions of their opponents, left the court just as they were beginning their warmups, mere minutes before the game was intended to start. This moment was clearly unexpected, and morphed into something even bigger when the NBA responded by rescheduling all other playoff games originally scheduled to be played on that day as well.
While the NBA players began discussing their next move and whether or not they should play, the movement they had created promptly started spreading to other sports leagues. Many other athletes began encouraging people to center their attention on the pressing issues society is currently facing regarding both unnecessary police brutality and racism. Various other basketball, hockey, baseball, soccer, and tennis matches were postponed on August 27th so as not to distract viewers from the important movement that was happening around them. Despite the games being canceled, athletes still demonstrated their overwhelming support for the movement. WNBA players, for example, stormed their court and adorned themselves in T-shirts that had seven red marks illustrated on the back, to represent the amount of times Blake was shot.
The Bucks were quick to make use of the attention they were receiving, and delivered a statement to demand justice several hours after their game was supposed to begin. The players emphasized the need for the Wisconsin state legislature to meet and take action against police brutality. The team was clearly disgusted about the lack of societal change that has been made, going on to say that as long as these issues remain unaddressed, “Our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
This protest has been the most significant act to date by the sports world to address social justice issues. Other notable acts include the kneeling of NFL players during the national anthem, a movement first introduced by Colin Kaepernick in 2016 to protest against police brutality and race related injustice. This action marks the latest move by high profile athletes to utilize their platform to shed light on issues regarding something bigger than basketball.