In the aftermath of the tragic police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the sports world has decided to send a message by boycotting and postponing multiple games, with the NBA season even “in jeopardy,” according to one veteran player. Inspired by the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to remain in the locker room and boycott their playoff match-up against the Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder also decided to boycott, leading the NBA to postpone all playoff games. An emergency player’s meeting yielded little clarity to the outcome of the season, ending “ugly” as the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers both voted to end the playoffs entirely.
A Board of Governer’s meeting and a second players’ meeting on Thursday morning will hopefully smooth over the league’s plan for the playoffs however Thursday’s slate of games most likely will not be played either. “Everyone is still too emotional”, one high-ranking source told ESPN. “There needs to be more time to come together on this.” Women’s basketball additionally opted to boycott, with the Mystics, Dream, Sparks, Lynx, Sun, and Mercury going on strike for, at least, Wednesday night’s games.
In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners all followed suit shortly after the NBA’s announcement. For the MLS, The Los Angeles Football Club postponed their match against Real Salt Lake. And, according to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, even the NFL, which doesn’t begin its season until September 10th, could be next for potential strikes.
Of course, to expect sports teams refusing to play a game to spark any degree of social change would be incredibly asinine. Such an abrupt pivot occurring days after the shooting and already having played games under these conditions also raises some questions on the origin and the validity. If such a horrific and soul-shattering incident, why wait? Why play multiple games? Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported players being “emotionally traumatized” by the police shooting of Blake and “not in the right frame of mind to play basketball,” despite playing days worth of basketball games. Setting those unanswered questions aside, most athletes should be near the bottom of the list of who the media asks to provide political analysis and opinions.
Fueled by a granduerous inflation of their own influence on the world, athletes seem to expect their words alone could be the spark that ignites social change in America. Spouting bumper stickers on Twitter and boycotting themselves, thereby missing the intent of boycotting, solves nothing and only exposes athletes’ tendency to overestimate their platforms. But, as the vast majority of athletes simply lack the proper education concerning intricate social issues and understanding of complex and nuanced incidents such as the Blake shooting, athletes rarely provide illuminating commentary and nearly cause even more harm with their ignorance.
To begin, let’s run down the Blake incident. Undoubtedly appaling, however we cannot bite on imagery presented in a sensationalized fragment of a video and fall to the outrage of what seems to be an unjust murder on its face, though the more details released, the more defensible the shooting becomes. Now the video depicts Blake, a black man, calmly walking back to his car and ignoring police orders to stop, with at least three guns trained on him, until he reaches into the side door of a vehicle with his kids in it and an officer fires his weapon. Presumably, Blake possessed a weapon in his vehicle and, judging by his unnaturally relaxed demeanor, attempted to pull that weapon on the police until the last minute where the police had to fire.
As details begin trickling out, raw police scanner audio reveals a woman in Kenosha called 911 to report Blake on her property when he wasn’t supposed to be and subsequently stole her keys. Court records show police had a warrant on Blake, issued last month, for a felony sex crime, tresspassing, and disorderly conduct. Also worth mentioning, Blake has a criminal history that includes assaulting police, resisting arrest, and domestic abuse, so not really the charitable angel painted by the media.
Another video from a different angle shows Blake brawling with at least two cops before proceeding to his SUV. According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, the officers deployed a taster that failed to stop Blake. Blake even admitted to having a knife in his possession and DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard. No additional weapons were found. Despite a more complete story, one of a justifiable (yet undeniably tragic) shooting, the sports world still bit on the aggrandized tale of black people being hunted by law enforcement being spun by the mainstream media.
“And y’all wonder why we say what we say about the Police!!” Lakers star LeBron James tweeted. “Someone please tell me WTF is this???!!! Exactly another black man being targeted. This s–t is so wrong and so sad!! Feel so sorry for him, his family and OUR PEOPLE!! We want JUSTICE” James continued in an interview, stating “We are scared as black people in America… Black Men, Black women, Black kids…we are terrified”.
“All you hear is Donald Trump & all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said in an interview. “It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s just really so sad. Like I should just be a coach, and it’s so often reminded of my color. You know? It’s just really sad. We’ve got to do better.”
Seattle Seahawks Safety Jamal Adams tweeted, “I’M SCARED FOR MY PARENTS LIVES. I’M SCARED FOR MY NEPHEWS AND NIECES LIVES. I’M SCARED FOR MY BROTHAS LIVES. I’M SCARED FOR MY SISTERS LIVES. I’M SCARED FOR MY DAMN FAMILY MAN!”
In a more visceral response against politicians, Chicago Cubs 1st Baseman Anthony Rizzo commented, “Shit doesn’t change. And it’s just the fact of the matter. Politicians really don’t give a fuck about us. All they care about is their own agenda. This is just the way it is and it’s upsetting. I’m sorry to use that language and go off. It’s upsetting.”
Unfortunately, some people follow what athletes say and believe in their word. To insinuate a climate where law enforcement executes black people for no reason only stirs up unnecessary fear and chaos. Demanding law enforcement to stop killing black Americans when, according to the Washington Post database, nine to fifteen total unarmed black people died at the hands of police in 2019, depending on the definition of unarmed, while cities like Kenosha burn to the ground and rioters loot innocent businesses, including black owned business, exhibits their dangerously backwards view.
The NBA particularly abides by a despicable double standard on social justice issues. While donning social justice messages on the back of players’ jerseys and wearing BLACK LIVES MATTER warm-up shirts, the NBA continues to maintain a massive presence in China, with academies that physically abuse young athletes, including one in Xinjiang region, in the far northwest of the country, where the government has been accused of literal genocide of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minoriuty, according to the New York Times.
The NBA also did not boycott China after the Chinese government didn’t recognize American players and executives First Amendment rights and demanded the NBA to disavow Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s support for Hong Kong’s independence in October of 2019, where not one NBA player stood with him or even with his right to say it, bowing down to the Chinese market. The NBA even apologized on Chinese Sina Weibo for Morey’s “inappropriate comments” regarding Hong Kong that “have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”
In their own league, Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell, a black player, called Dallas Mavericks Slovenian star Luka Doncic a “bitch-ass white boy” in a playoff game, with no league discipline or statement condemning the blatantly racial attack. But then the NBA still decides on a wildly delayed strike of their own games, which they somehow believe addresses the real issues at hand (it doesn’t) and heals a nation up in blazing riots (it won’t come close).
However, let’s make this clear. None of this suggests athletes remain silent on social or even political issues on certain occasions. With a platform larger than most, not standing for anything other than their sport could be a bit of waste, though settling as an inspiration for hard work and willpower wouldn’t be any less respectable. But their public beliefs should represent more universal goods than attempting to navigate thorny politics. Honesty and accuracy should be a prerequisite. Spewing basic slogans and drumming up panic while turning a blind eye to more pressing issues obliterates any legitimacy that athlete may have had.
And, if athletes genuinely care for a cause, their status allows more opportunity to bring upon practical and tangible change. Sitting out of a sporting event should be considered a frivolous squandering of their platform.
Truthfully, the presence of sports will mean very little in the face of such massive unrest but witnessing sports league collapse in on themselves in the plight of social justice only adds to the decay of social fabric, providing even less to unify under. Cheering for the Milwaukee Bucks won’t slow the riots in Kenosha but losing sports contributes to the chaos and tears off a layer of cultural normalcy. Again we plunge into a state of social disarray, spurned only by our overreactions and inability to recognize our limits. Whipped into a froth, turmoil justifies greater turmoil and a small social stabilizer in the world of sports has succumbed to the social justice call.
The future of all sports enters a winding flux on a collision course between social justice pandering and reality. With prolonged strikes results in no product to sell and no revenue to be made. No revenue means no money for players. Only the players’ limits on stalwartness will reveal the virtue of these boycotts. Until that pivotal point, sports are cancelled. And, if the precedent sticks, could be the state of entertainment for the foreseeable future.