Amidst the current events regarding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the atrocities that have resulted from police brutality, many sports players and leagues across the world have taken a moment to recognize and utilize their platform as a way to promote change and equality. In recent years, professional athletes have been increasingly scrutinized and politicized following the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. His actions and his sacrifice can be seen in the current world of professional sports, paving the way for athletes to use their platform as a tool of change.
With the rise of the BLM movement following the murder of George Floyd, there has been an overall increase in awareness and a greater push for change. After months of protesting, the ripples of the movement have been felt across the world, leading many sports leaders to use their platform to take a stand.
Following the horrifying police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the teams within the current National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff bubble committed to supporting the BLM movement and making their voices heard. The movement’s spread to professional sports began with the Milwaukee Bucks boycotting their playoff game vs the Orlando Magic, stating that they were “calling for justice for Jacob Blake and [demanding] the officers be held accountable.” The games between the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder as well as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers were similarly boycotted, and after threats from the NBA to count the Bucks game as a forfeit, the Magic refused to accept a forfeit for the boycotted game. This unified stand by NBA teams and organizations quickly compelled teams in other sports to follow suit.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) similarly boycotted all three of their games that same day on August 26, 2020 and took to the court while locking arms and kneeling in unity and solidarity for Jacob Blake and the actions of the NBA teams. In addition to the growing movement, the three Major League Baseball (MLB) games were boycotted the day of, with many more being protested on the following day. This spread of solidarity continued to be felt across the world of sports including the National Football League (NFL), Major League Soccer (MLS), tennis, and the National Hockey League (NHL), leading to further acknowledgment of the prevalent problems today and the subsequent changes that need to be made in order to create a more equal world.
While it is difficult and near impossible to expect every player and coach to take a stand on political and social issues, it is important that athletes and coaches recognize how powerful their voices and words can be. Whether they are in support or opposed to current events in the world, they must be mindful of the effect that they have on their audiences. The platform created by professional sports is highly respected and constantly in the spotlight, which makes it increasingly important for athletes to be educated and formulate thoughtful responses and actions to current events. Overall, the spread of the BLM movement to professional sports represents a huge step forward, ensuring that Colin Kaepernick’s sacrifice was not made in vain, and showing the world that there are issues that are more urgent than deciding the winner of a game.