The Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to play its Game 5 playoff matchup Wednesday against the Orlando Magic in protest of the Kenosha, Wis. police shooting of Jacob Blake triggered a domino effect around the league. Every remaining team refused to play its scheduled games that day, Thursday and Friday in solidarity with the Bucks. Protests across other leagues followed, as several WNBA and MLB teams postponed their games as well.
But the protests across the sports world weren’t identical, neither in form nor degree. Here’s a look at the varying responses by professional sports leagues during a historic week in sports history.
In the wake of the police shooting that left Blake paralyzed from the waist down, the Bucks sat out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to stand against police brutality. Later, the Bucks made a public statement to urge lawmakers to take immediate action.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable,” the statement read. “For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”
Shortly after, the NBA released a statement saying all games would be postponed for the day. This led players, coaches and owners to hold a meeting in the Orlando bubble to devise initiatives to fight against racial injustice.
Initiatives included the creation of a social justice coalition to oversee the league’s role in increasing voting access, promoting civic engagement and advocating for police and criminal justice reform. In every NBA city, owners will be working with local officials to transform arenas into voting locations for the 2020 general election. The league then committed to run advertisements promoting civic engagement in national and local elections.
Play resumed Saturday after three days of inaction on the court.
The WNBA took Wednesday to reflect and demand justice for Black people killed at the hands of the police.
On Wednesday, players wore black shirts reading “Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor” as they locked arms in solidarity. Later in the day, the Washington Mystics took the court to kneel as some wore shirts each containing a letter to spell out “Blake” in the front and seven black holes in the back to signify the number of times Blake was shot.
These actions come after the league dedicated the season to social justice initiatives — including a “Say Her Name” campaign in honor of Taylor — back in early July.
Play resumed Friday.
Three MLB games were postponed Wednesday out of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement: Cincinnati Reds vs. Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners vs. San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants.
Seven games scheduled for Thursday were postponed as well, with the league releasing a statement in support of players not wanting to deter attention away from Kenosha.
“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight,” a league statement read. “Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.”
Individually, outfielder Jayson Heyward of the Chicago Cubs opted not to play Wednesday hours before the Cubs took the field against the Detroit Tigers. Some teams, such as the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, took the field for a moment of silence before walking off and did not play. MLB was the only league that didn’t take a leaguewide day off.
The league opted to cancel two games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday and Friday each. Players felt that the best decision was to postpone games and take a moment of reflection in response to the shooting of Blake.
“Black and Brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences,” the league’s statement read. “The NHL and [NHL Players’ Association] recognize that much work remains to be done before we can play an appropriate role in a discussion centered on diversity, inclusion and social justice.”
Several teams canceled training camp practices during the week to hold a team dialogue about race and social injustice.
The Detroit Lions stood outside its practice facility Tuesday with two phrases written on a white board: “We Won’t Be Silent” and “The World Can’t Go On.” Three players addressed the media about the message.
“We can’t be silent,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “We cannot be going on in the world with our regular day.”
Other teams around the league such as the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans and the Washington Football Team canceled practice Thursday.
The Seattle Seahawks canceled Saturday’s team practice and instead used the time to make sure every player on the roster registered to vote.