TW: Violence, Racial Injustice
A recent wave of strikes and protests throughout several major sports leagues in the United States is just the latest in a series of events in response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
On August 23, 2020, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in front of his children during an attempted arrest by police. In response, the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks became the first of many sports teams to refuse to participate in upcoming games. Players walked off of the court on Wednesday, refusing to play their fifth game of the Eastern Conference first-round series against the Orlando Magic. Magic players soon followed their opponents in protest. These protests forced the NBA to halt its entire playoff schedule. Further NBA teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, soon followed, as did WNBA, MLB and MLS teams. These protests are added to a long history of protest movements in professional American sports leagues. Currently, this onset of protests marks the largest single cancellation of games in NBA history.
The event marks a significant point in the BLM movement, which has been ongoing with increased intensity since the killing of George Floyd by police in May. Organized professional sports leagues stand as a major pillar in American culture and economics; without them, further pressure is placed on those in power to take initiative. It is important to recognize that what is occurring here is not a
boycott, as many major news outlets have been calling it. Rather, it is a strike; a direct refusal by employees of a company or organization, in this case the respective sports leagues, to participate in their assigned work. Players have stated that their intent is to bring about change, stating that sports should not be the primary focus at the moment in light of rampant social injustice. There is
a sentiment among players that their loyalty should first be to their race, an understandable attitude considering the intensity of racial discrimination occurring in the United States. Even if considerable
progress is not made as a result of these strikes, players can feel as if they are part of a larger movement.
While many have been speaking out in favor of the strikes, others have expressed concern that these protests may further the divide between Americans and sports celebrities, the latter of whom are considered by some to be too out of touch with the general population to have a say in social matters. An existing concern amongst some is that these protests may serve as another nail in the coffin for sports leagues that are already financially weakened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without revenue from these cancelled games to rely on, many fans and critics alike are questioning if American sports leagues can continue to weather the storm.