Kudos to members of the NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, tennis, and other professional sports leagues whose members did more than take a knee following the most recent police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Last week, players staged walkouts while standing up against racial injustice in the U.S. It was a powerful statement to make and for all of America, and the world, to see and hear.
As players, coaches, and even sports commentators made bold statements and then walked off the field, the court, and news desks, it brought to mind A Day of Absence, the 1965 one-act play, Douglas Turner Ward, the playwright and actor most noted for founding and directing the Negro Ensemble Company based in New York City. The play takes place in a Southern town where, overnight, Black people suddenly disappear, leaving White people to fend for themselves to do the work they depended on Black people to do for them. It is a satire, but for one day, the walkout of athletes – both Black and white – left America wondering who or where would they go for entertainment if the players, the majority in most leagues who are Black, refused to play.
The New York Times, in a headline, called it a “deafening silence… that provided a powerful message.” And The Washington Post described it as a “new standard of civil disobedience.” No matter how you characterize this moment, it is clear that the players discovered their voice and used it effectively.
“We are not just basketball players,” Ariel Atkins of the Washington Mystics said. “And just because we are basketball players doesn’t mean that’s our only platform.”
An official statement by the Milwaukee Bucks read, “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.”
At a time when COVID-19 is devastating American households through sickness and death, forcing less human interaction, and creating job loss, as well as mental, physical, and emotional concerns, the nation needs its favorite past-times to return. But athletes are humans, too, and they share the pain that makes playing less fun. We take pride and support the decisions they’ve made and their demands to end all injustice everywhere. So, as the games begin, we know these men and women have proven that until there is justice, the games may end again.