Sports

Blake Tragedy Sparks National Sports Boycott

After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, a demand for change sparked protests that raged on to stop police brutality and systemic racism against people of color.

The 46-year-old man died in the street screaming, “I can’t breathe,” while officer Derek Chauvin left his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Though the Black Lives Matter movement spread awareness of what is going on everywhere in the nation, it didn’t stop another tragedy in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 23 during the evening for a domestic disturbance call noted as “family trouble.”

Kenosha Police Department officer Rusten Sheskey discharged his weapon at 29-year-old Jacob Blake while he was entering his vehicle. Based on video footage, Blake allegedly posed no apparent threat when he was subsequently shot seven times in the back.

Blake is paralyzed from the waist, and all officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

“DCI is continuing to review evidence and return the facts of this incident and will turn over investigative reports to a prosecutor following a complete and thorough investigation,” said a police statement.

In contrast, only 15 miles away from where Blake was shot multiple times, a 17-year-old white male (Kyle Rittenhouse) armed with a semi-automatic rifle shot and killed two people (wounded another) on Aug. 25 during the protests while the area is under a state of emergency.

In cellphone video that surfaced over social media, the assailant fired at bystanders trying to stop him after finding out that he allegedly shot and killed someone.

In another video shared by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President Kristen Clarke, police officers can be heard speaking to a group of white men patrolling the area saying, “We appreciate you guys, we really do” and proceeded to give them water. One of which was a man wielding a rifle that appeared to be the shooter.

Rittenhouse then walked up to police officers with his hands raised up as police vehicles driving by him after the curfew hours. He was armed with an automatic weapon. He was arrested at his home in Illinois and charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis in a news conference on Aug. 26 said that the victims might not have been shot and killed if they were not out after curfew hours.

“Everyone involved was out after the curfew…I’m not going to make a big deal of that,” said Miskinis.

The chief simply said that the shooter “was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place.”

That series of events led Milwaukee Bucks players to not show up for their NBA postseason match against the Orlando Magic on Aug. 26. The Bucks had a commanding 3-1 series lead.

The NBA then announced that games that night were canceled.

“The NBA and the NBPA today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled,” said a statement by the league.”

The boycott triggered similar action in other leagues as the WNBA, MLB and MLS postponed games. Even the Washington Football Team canceled their practice.

After the Bucks came out of the locker room following their decision not to play, Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown stood with his teammates behind him wearing black t-shirts and explained why they did not play.

“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, the has been no action,” Brown said. “So, our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James took to Twitter saying: “F— THIS MAN!!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT.”

However, Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler believes that her players “Don’t have a place in sports” after refusing to play amid the turmoil that happened in Wisconsin.

Loeffler has recently denounced the Black Lives Matter movement and penned an open letter insisting that league commissioner Cathy Engelbert not allow players to don “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” warmup uniforms before games.

“The truth is, we need less—not more politics in sports. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote,” said Loeffler. “And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports.”

Though the boycott garnered national attention to the atrocities that occurred over the week, ESPN Senior NBA Reporter Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed that the NBA players took a vote on Aug. 27 to continue and play. The postseason will return shortly though all NBA games were postponed on Aug. 27.

After the two-day boycott, the NBA released a joint statement with the NBPA announcing that the playoffs will resume Aug. 29.

The league’s owners agreed to create a social justice coalition that will consist of “representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.”

Secondly, every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team owners will convert arenas to voting centers for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID.

Finally, the league announced that they will work with the players and television networks to display advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.

“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community,” said the NBA in the statement.

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