With professional sports back in action, the buzz of fans rooting for their favorite football team slowly drowns out the chants of “No justice, no peace!”. As our heads turn to focus on the basketball and baseball playoffs nearing closer, we muffle the noise that’s been building up this entire summer ever since the murder of George Floyd. Because of this, many professional athletes decided to take a stand in solidarity on August 26, 2020, to declare that the world of sports should no longer take away and be separate from the world of politics.
When Wisconsin resident Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by police officer Rusten Sheskey, many teams and players across the nation responded to the police brutality by boycotting their games. It started with the Milwaukee Bucks, whose players did not take the court against the Orlando Magic on the 26th. (The Bucks’ statement can be found here.) Others followed in their footsteps: the NBA announced Game 5 of three different playoff series would be postponed, three WNBA and Major League Baseball games were scratched, and five Major League Soccer games were called off.
These boycotts reignited a fire in the fight for racial equality. By putting a halt on the massive industry of sports entertainment, even for a day, it makes it impossible to ignore the state of our country. Professional athletes who are idolized by millions had made the decision to put the discussion of human rights before their jobs. As a public figure, when human lives are at stake, your profession comes second in priority – doing what is right comes first. Because these players have such large followings, it is their duty to make a public stance on the right side of history, even if that means walking away from their job. Their actions create extremely meaningful discussions and become great examples for the people that follow them, especially those who may not have taken a stance on the issue up to this point. When these athletes with immense influence use their platforms to advocate for change, they become pioneers in the social movement for racial equality.
As average Americans, when our “normal” becomes disrupted in such a way, we are forced to open our eyes and consider the reality of the situation. Although the Black Lives Matter movement may not affect me individually (as a privileged person in a safe community), I’m faced with the truth that police brutality and white privilege can and do impact my favorite sports players, artists, actors, etc., in ways I could never imagine. In this country, pro athletes are worshiped by kids and adults alike, and what they do greatly impacts us and society. America would not be what it is today without black culture.
While officials in power have failed to act, athletes of all colors across the nation used their voices and rallied together to make noise and draw attention to the injustices in our country. The boycotts amplified black voices, and compelled all of us to listen to their cries for equality. Change cannot be made without bold, powerful acts of solidarity that disrupt our everyday routines.
We should not be able to enjoy basketball games if the players (and millions of other Americans) cannot enjoy basic human rights. If you felt angry that your sports were cancelled for one day, think about how black Americans feel having to face racism every day.
Click here for Sports Editor Timmy Ryan’s opinion.