(ThyBlackMan.com) Slightly over a week ago, the Milwaukee Bucks made a decision that will live in sports history. They decided not to play their August 26th scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic, which was Game 5, of a best of seven game playoff series. Milwaukee made the decision without letting their opponents who were the Magic, or the NBA know, as they took a stand following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin, by the police. The actions by the Milwaukee Bucks let to the cancellation of all other NBA playoff games for multiple days and serious questions about whether NBA players were going to return to the court to finish the 2019-20 NBA season that was previously interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Understanding that the pandemic of institutional and systemic racism was deeper and longer lasting than COVID-19, the much of the sports world stopped for several days as the result of police brutality. The return to play of professional sports doesn’t mean that that stoppage was done in vain.
For most Black Americans, there is an understanding that police will treat them differently than their white counterparts. This has been a point that has been exemplified with data and in anecdotes as Black people describe some of their police interactions or giving “The Talk” to their adolescent or teenage Black children about safety measures to take regarding their police interactions. It can be mentally tiring and emotionally draining to have to deal with the other microaggressions that come with being Black and seeing incidents like what happened to Jacob Blake, when lethal force is used on an unarmed Black man by the police.
People have labeled the decision by the Milwaukee Bucks not to play basketball on August 26th as either a “boycott” or “wildcat strike”. Regardless of the label, it led to brief stoppages from other American sports leagues, including the Women’s National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. Those actions were important because it affected sports fans from various demographics to understand the reason for the stoppage, which is continued injustices towards Black Americans, particularly police brutality. It is also okay if the Milwaukee Bucks, comprised mostly of Black players including a member of their team who faced police violence in the past, needed a mental break from their work due to the Jacob Blake shooting.
The NBA did come up with some actionable things from the stoppage that might not have come as quickly or at all due to the stoppage. Days after the stoppage, the NBA playoffs resumed but the league and its players association agreed to multiple initiatives including the creation of a social justice coalition, working with local elections officials turn arenas into voting locations for the 2020 General Election, and 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. There seems to be a greater focus on voting now among sports leagues and sports figures particularly in the 2020 General Election.
There will be some people who will be critical of the NBA players returning to play and finish the season at all or of the actionable “commitments” that came out of the stoppage that grabbed worldwide headlines. It is important to remember that NBA players range in ages 20 to 35, with different backgrounds and bases of knowledge. They should not be harshly criticized for the route they took in trying to make a change in society considering they are limited in power as opposed to politicians, who often maintain their political positions regardless of the positive societial change they implement.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines