Various Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are joining forces with their basketball counterparts to boycott Wednesday evening’s professional sports games in protest of police brutality, racism and Sunday’s police shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The move comes as the players for the National Basketball Association (NBA) are reportedly discussing the possibility of a formal general strike.
The Milwaukee Brewers made the decision to cancel their game with the Cincinnati Brewers first, and the Seattle Mariners quickly joined suit by announcing that they were canceling their own game tonight with the San Diego Padres. The Mariners have the most Black players of any team in the league.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants also decided to silence their bats tonight to join the wave of protest sweeping through professional sports.
The San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers game tonight has been postponed, sources tell ESPN. It's the third MLB game to be canceled in the wake of the NBA players refusing to play after the fallout of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 27, 2020
The Brewers’ protest was first made public by Wall Street Journal baseball writer Jared Diamond, who announced the news first on Twitter. The Reds quickly agreed not to play the game, ensuring that the protest would not result in a forfeit by the Brewers.
The unexpected halt to tonight’s scheduled games come after the Milwaukee Bucks symbolically announced a boycott of the playoff games by refusing to appear on court for a scheduled match with Orlando Magic.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
On Sunday evening, 29-year-old Black male Jacob Blake was shot several times in the back by Kenosha Police in full view of his three children. Blake is currently paralyzed and it is unclear whether he will ever be able to walk again. The shooting was followed by nights of unrest in the Lake Michigan city and is on track to rekindle the weeks of explosive nationwide unrest that unfolded this summer following the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.
The Bucks’ move to protest police violence following Sunday’s high-profile police shooting in their home state quickly spread across the NBA, with other teams scheduled for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series within the Orlando NBA Bubble at Disney World agreeing that the protest was necessary.
“Some things are bigger than basketball,” Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry announced in a tweet. “The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change.”
Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change
— Alex Lasry (@AlexanderLasry) August 26, 2020
A half hour prior to the game, the Bucks also shared video of Budenholzer discussing his team’s thoughts about the police shooting.
“It is a great challenge to have an appreciation and a desire to want change,” Budenholzer said. “To want something different and better in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Wisconsin and then to go out and play a game.”
Bucks players also managed to reach politicians in Wisconsin to demand the need for urgent action to halt police violence.
Inside the locker room, the Milwaukee Bucks were on a conference call with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
The collective action by NBA athletes could evolve to the level of a formal general strike as basketball players are reportedly set to hold a union meeting where they will deliberate about next steps, tweeted The Athletic writer Jared Weiss.
The unexpected move was essentially a wildcat strike, meaning that the work stoppage was undertaken by players without the authorization of union leadership. Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, the move by the Bucks violated their own contract.
The players will hold a union meeting tonight where they will likely hold a debate and possibly put to vote a formal general strike. Right now this is a wildcat strike. There are plenty of ways this can take shape that go short of a general strike.
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) August 26, 2020
The NBA was quick to frame the boycott as a “postponement” following the reports of widespread labor actions by teams, announcing dryly in a statement that the other games would be cancelled unilaterally by the association and players’ union.
Orlando Magic supported the league’s statement, announcing in their own statement: “Today we stand united with the NBA Office, the National Basketball Players Association, the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the league condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police against people of color.”
The possibility of a widespread protest across the league during a strange season already rendered abnormal by the COVID-19 pandemic marks a new development after NBA players have become increasingly vocal about racism and police violence nationwide.
Just last week, the Los Angeles Lakers donned red hats that appeared similar to President Trump’s MAGA hats. However, the hats instead read: “Make America Great Again Arrest The Cops Who Killed Breonna Taylor.”
It remains unclear as to whether the protest spirit will have a lasting impact on professional baseball, where the majority of players are non-Black and the culture of the sport is generally considered older and more conservative.
The NBA, owners and front offices didn't see this wave of player boycotts coming today. Hours ago, they all expected to be playing these games tonight. This is a pivot point for the NBA and professional sports in North America.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
TNT sports analyst and former NBA player Kenny Smith also walked off the set of the NBA on TNT in solidarity with the protests.
However, MLB teams and the league itself have generally supported the calls for racial justice with social media posts supporting Black Lives Matter and players symbolically kneeling prior to the national anthem on the July 23 opening day.
Managers and star players such as Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers have also criticized the league and team owners for failing or being too slow in addressing social issues publically, unlike their counterparts in the National Football League (NFL) or NBA.
Sports have long been used throughout history to distract people from important political and social issues of the day. However, it appears that the patience of professional athletes has been exhausted, and they are doing what they can to ensure that attention remains focused on the streets.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 26, 2020
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