NBA, WNBA, MLB, MLS Athletes Strike To Support Black Lives Matter, Social Change

By Aaron Brophy 8/27/20 |

Milwaukee Bucks issue statement — photo credit: screenshot.

The Toronto Raptors announced this afternoon that the opening game of their National Basketball Association (NBA) round two playoff series against the Boston Celtics set to take place in Orlando, Florida has been postponed. The players are striking as an action to support racial justice and equality in the wake of police shooting unarmed Black man Jacob Blake seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23, leaving him paralyzed.

"We stand with our brothers in solidarity as we fight for justice and change," said the Raptors from the team's official Twitter account.

The Raptors started hinting at taking a stronger social change stance on Aug. 25 when the team's Fred VanVleet suggested they needed to do more.

"You know coming down here and making a choice to play was supposed to not be in vain, but it’s just starting to feel like everything we’re doing is going through the motions and nothing’s really changing,” VanVleet said during a press appearance. "Here we are today with another unfortunate incident, so my thoughts today are with that man and his family and trying to wrap my mind around what they’re going through.

"We’re the ones with the microphones in our face, we’re the ones who have to make a stand. The responsibility falls on us to make a change to stop being oppressed. At what point do we not have to speak about it any more?"

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was moved to tears following his team's game on Wednesday night.

"All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We're the ones getting denied to live in certain communities. We've been hung. We've been shot. And all you keep hearing is 'fear.' It's amazing, we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back."

A powerful coalition of professional athletes from at least four different sports leagues have declared they're on strike. Some of the things they're calling for include team owners and media partners to take deeper and more meaningful actions in support of racial equality, voter reforms, an end to police brutality, a change in police training and an end to police unions.

Response from athletes calcified on Aug. 26 when the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks team, which plays its home games less than an hour away from Kenosha, announced they'd be refusing to play their scheduled game 5 playoff contest versus the Orlando Magic. Other teams in the NBA quickly followed suit, with the L.A. Lakers and L.A. Clippers players further voting to end their seasons entirely and Lakers superstar player Lebron James tweeting out, "FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT".

The Bucks players released a statement on the official NBA website highlighting the importance of combating racial injustice.

“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.

“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.

“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 hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.

“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3."

In July Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown spoke at length to The Players Tribune about an incident where he was attacked by multiple city police officers for illegally parking his car. Brown says he refused a $400,000 settlement offer from the city of Milwaukee so that he could continue to speak openly it.

Players in the high-profile, multi-billion dollar-valued NBA were reluctant to resume their 2019-20 season and playoffs after the league shut down in March due to concerns over COVID-19.  One of the major points the players demanded in order to returning to play was greater league-wide support of social causes, including Black Live Matter.

In an act of solidarity yesterday, Major League Baseball (MLB)'s Milwaukee Brewers team chose not to play their game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers were then joined by a number of other teams. Additionally, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) shut down to support the strike. Major League Soccer (MLS) teams have also supported the strike and practices for players in the National Football League (NFL) have also been postponed as players in that league consider action. Additionally, today players in the National Hockey League (NHL) announced that they, too, would be taking actions to support racial justice.

In most cases various leagues have been declaring the striked out games as "postponements" and have been showing degrees of support for athletes.

Another attack in Kenosha occurred on Aug. 25 when 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a white male, shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third, escalating tensions.

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