On August 26, 2020 the Milwaukee Bucks did not take the floor for their Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic. Their decision, a protest statement pointed directly at police violence toward Black people in this country, was just the beginning. The remaining games Wednesday were in the NBA’s words, “Postponed”, with other professional sports leagues considering the same.
It is tragic poetry that this date holds such significance involving professional athletes taking a stand:
august 26, 2016:— mike taddow (@taddmike) August 26, 2020
colin kaepernick sits on the bench for the first time during the national anthem in a packers-49ers preseason game.
august 26, 2020:
milwaukee bucks boycott playoff game vs. orlando magic.
That these cultural figures have the conviction and passion to be advocates for change is compelling. That we are four years later and the same echo of protest is necessary is devastating. From a sports perspective the story itself is still developing as it is currently unclear where the NBA, or other sports leagues, will go from here. But those logistics are all secondary.
Prior to the NBA’s arrival to the Orlando Bubble, players and staff weighed their options in the midst of nationwide outrage at the murder of George Floyd. Even after the league had announced their intentions to return in July, players expressed their reticence at playing in this moment. Many, having spent the summer heavily involved in local community action, felt that a return to sports would be a distraction to the issues at hand. After the shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23, those feelings resurfaced.
The league initially made outward efforts to invest in amplifying the voices of players and coaches across the league while the season resumed. But today is a turning point. If only for a moment today’s actions, by the Milwaukee Bucks and beyond, state plainly that this is just a game. And perhaps the players, coaches, front offices, even all of us, could be spending our energy focused on demanding systemic change in this country.
Update: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he’ll support his team on whatever actions they decide to take.
Thoughts from @mcuban on the boycotts and whether he’d support his team taking that action.— Mike Doocy (@MikeDoocyFox4) August 26, 2020
“Of course I would support my team. A lot of things in life are more important than basketball. And I’ll support action items nba players put in place to try to effect change.”