In an unprecedented move, players from the National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer are all striking in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI.
Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take part in a playoff game against the Orlando Magic, which was meant to take place in "the bubble" at Disney World, set up to protect players from COVID-19. Ultimately, all three games that were scheduled last night were postponed, a decision that was made due to the players' refusal to take the court.
Soon after, players from WNBA, who have a long history of protesting for Black rights, announced that they would join the movement. (Many players are calling their decision not to play a "boycott," but this kind of labor stoppage is actually a wildcat strike, so called because it was undertaken without authorization by the players union.) So did players from MLB and MLS. Tennis star Naomi Osaka also participated, saying on Twitter, “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” said Bucks player Sterling Brown, who read a statement on the team’s behalf alongside teammate George Hill. The statement ended with Hill saying, "We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on November 3."
In a tweet, Shams Charania, NBA insider for The Athletic and Stadium, said that Hill claimed to be the first to start the conversation about a strike, and his fellow players quickly agreed.
Sources: There was some frustration in meeting toward Bucks blindsiding on walk-out plan. Bucks’ George Hill admitted he first sparked conversation pregame to boycott contest, teammates supported.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
After announcing their decision, the Bucks spoke with Josh Kaul, Wisconsin Attorney General, and Mandela Barnes, Lieutenant Governor, The Atlantic reports. The actions of the players have been met with widespread support from people including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama.
The National Hockey League, however, has been criticized for continuing to play. In a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, the scoreboard displayed the message, “End Racism,” The Athletic reports, part of what reporter Scott Burnside called on Twitter “a tepid response.”
In the early hours of Monday morning in Kenosha, Blake, an unarmed, 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back by police seven times in front of his three children. The shooting comes at the end of a summer marked by racial justice protests, as the country has expressed its horror and frustration at the ongoing police violence against the Black community. In response to Blake's shooting, the residents of Kenosha marched through the streets, demanding that the police be held responsible. On Tuesday night, two people were shot and killed and a third was injured, allegedly by 17-year-old Blue Lives Matter-supporter Kyle Rittenhouse, during protests in the Wisconsin town, where hundreds of National Guards members have been deployed. The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the shooting, The New York Times reports.
As of press time, there is no indication of how long these strikes will last and what comes next for the teams.