August 26, 2020
Updated: Aug 29, 2020
It's already been a historic year, but August 26, 2020 is a date that will go down in sports history.
This day, the Milwaukee Bucks declared a strike when they chose to not play their NBA Playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The team was protesting the police treatment of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot seven times in the back. The incident happened in the nearby city of Kenosha, Wis. in front of Blake's children after he reportedly tried to break up a fight. His injuries left him paralyzed and his is another name added to the long list of Black men and women who are victims of racially charged violence. In 2020.
After making their initial statement by not showing up to the court by the scheduled tipoff of 4 p.m. EST., the Bucks gathered in the locker room to formulate their united message. Hours later, the entire team gathered in front of the media while George Hill and Sterling Brown read the Bucks' statement, saying "our focus today cannot be on basketball."
The Magic, who weren't notified of their opponent's decision ahead of time, respectfully sat out with the same message. "We are happy to stand in solidarity with Milwaukee, Jacob, and the entire NBA community," Michael Carter-Williams said.
The stance snowballed as the rest of the teams scheduled to play on Wednesday — the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers — also chose to sit out and release statements showing support for Blake while continuing to speak out about social injustices. NBA on TNT reporter walked off the show in his own sign of solidarity.
The WNBA also did not play its three scheduled games on Wednesday. The players for the teams who were set to participate gathered on the court in the Bradenton, Fla. Bubble to create their own united statement. They created a photo opp with several players and coaches wearing black T-shirts surrounding the Washington Mystics in the middle wearing white shirts that spelled out Jacob Blake's name. The back of the shirts showed marks representing the seven bullets that struck Blake.
WNBA President of the Players Union, Los Angeles Sparks Nneka Ogwumike, shared a statement with ESPN representing the league, saying "with our platform, there's so much more that we feel that we can do to really create some serious change."
Ten days after celebrating the centennial of the Negro Leagues, the MLB joined in sitting out on games. Three of the baseball games — Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres vs. Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers — were acknowledged as postponed by the league after the Brewers and Reds decided together to not play.
MLS joined as well, with Inter Miami CF and Atlanta United agreeing not to play despite the excitement and momentum both teams carried into the game. The decision was made with a request from the league's Black Players for Change. Earlier in the day, the match between Orlando City SC and Nashville SC was played as scheduled. The rest of the games were then declared postponed as FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids, Real Salt Lake, LAFC, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC all agreed to sit out. The various teams released statements with MLS sharing its own sentiments and hopes for equality and justice.
Perhaps one of the strongest statements was by tennis star Naomi Osaka, who said she would not be playing in her semifinals match of the Western & Southern Open scheduled for Thursday. Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, is half Japanese and half Haitian. She explained how her identity as a Black woman informed her decision, stating, "before I am [an] athlete, I am a black woman. And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis."
The Western & Southern Open followed her lead, pausing play on its tournament until Friday, saying, "As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States."
The only league that seemed to go on as normal was the NHL, which played its three playoff games as scheduled. There was much disappointment on social media about the league not taking a stand. San Jose Sharks star Evander Kane voiced his support for the NBA statements and expressed his own disappointment in how the NHL stayed mum, saying "it's incredibly insulting as a black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgment from the @nhl."
August 26, 2020 marks four years to the day that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem prior to a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. His actions, which later included kneeling during the anthem, sparked much controversy about social injustices and how to fight against racial inequalities.
In 2016, the names that flooded the news cycle included Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and in just the few years prior, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and so many more.
On August 26, 2020 we honor the lives of Jacob Blake, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and Big Floyd <3