The Milwaukee Bucks were scheduled to play the Orlando Magic in the NBA playoffs on Wednesday afternoon. Instead, they kicked off one of the biggest strikes in American sports.
The Bucks decided to protest after a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot a Black man named Jacob Blake in the back seven times – the latest example of police violence against Black Americans. That led to the NBA calling off its games for the next two days. The WNBA would follow, as would some Major League Baseball teams, and the National Hockey League. It was an unprecedented move, according to Daron K. Roberts, the founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin.
“If you look at American sports, I mean we haven’t seen anything like what 2020 has presented to us,” Roberts told the Texas Standard.
The strike was the latest example of athletes leveraging their platform for social change. As the calls for anti-racist action and reforming law enforcement have grown, so too have athletes sought to amplify those messages. Actions like the strike have also produced tangible results.
“You can look at Wisconsin, right? There’s been a special session called by the governor. The governor talked with players from the Bucks. And so you’re seeing also this translate into some change that could have some real effects,” Roberts said. “I think that players in this age have looked up and said, ‘Look, the game depends on us. We believe that it is our duty to use our platform for good.’”
As part of the strike’s resolution, the NBA also announced that all NBA arenas would be available as voting centers.
Roberts said it’s possible that this form of activism trickles down into amateur athletics too.
“I would not be surprised to see student athletes say, ‘Look, we don’t agree with the direction of this country and we’re going to use our athletic ability and talent to leverage change,’” he said.