Social Justice Over Sports

Joshua Lasarte, SPORTS EDITOR


   Dead silence fell through stadiums all across America; on courts that usually shake from an outpouring of noise from fans, a pin could be heard dropping. After the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, athletes and citizens were outraged. 


   Jacob Blake had police called on him after “a female caller reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises,” per the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). According to the Wisconsin police union, officers were told of a sexual assault warrant that was later vacated. 


  Furthermore, the Wisconsin DOJ, in an update, reviewed what their investigation came up with: When the police arrived, they tried to arrest Jacob Blake, failed, and then tased him. After being tased, Blake got up, moved to his car, and leaned into it, at which point a police officer shot him seven times in his back. Only reports after Blake was taken to the hospital confirmed the presence of a knife.    


   The Wisconsin police union told the press that the responding officers knew about Blake’s warrant. Outrage across America swelled because the situation was seen as unjust and an excessive use of force by the police. The first players to boycott their games were the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic. After that, the entire NBA soon followed their lead and never showed up to the court to play. Players got together to hold press conferences to discuss the boycott and what they should do moving forward.


   The NBA players association made the official choice to not play in order to protest racism and police brutality. For a few days, the entire playoffs were in jeopardy, and fans were left in the dark not knowing the future of basketball. This is not just a historical moment for the Black Lives Matter movement, but also a historical moment for basketball. 


   The last ever boycott that was taken by NBA players was in the 1950s by basketball legend Bill Russell in order to protest against racism. After the Bucks decided to boycott the game, the NBA only left for two days and returned to playoff basketball.


   All of the protesting and boycotting has received unanimous support from players and NBA executives, but fans have had very mixed opinions about it. Junior Radliff Jeantinor said, “Protesting on such a big stage really helps spread the central message of BLM nationwide.” Since the NBA restart, the ratings and viewership have taken a drastic hit. TNT viewership dropped 40%, 20% on ESPN, and dropped an insane 45% on ABC. 


   Different professional sports leagues like the MLS, the WNBA, tennis, and the MLB have all had boycotts of their own. Following in the footsteps of the NBA, all these leagues postponed all of their upcoming games over the next two days. Once the leagues finally returned, they continued their protests by taking a knee and wearing Black Lives Matter shirts in solidarity with the victims. 


   Tennis player Naomi Osaka also walked off of her court before her match started while wearing a Breonna Taylor shirt. The only league to not have any protests and no boycotts has been the National Hockey League. Senior Johnny Montilla said, “All of these protests are helping spread awareness and finally help the victims.” The Black Lives Matter movement has more attention and supporters than ever before, and it seems clear that many athletes do not plan on stopping until they reach their goal.