NBA player strike justified after Kenosha police shooting


Juan Diaz

After the shooting of Jacob Blake, sports teams from various leagues engaged in a strike.

Just minutes before the playoff game against the Orlando Magic, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play in response to the police shooting Jacob Blake, a black man, 7 times in the nearby town of Kenosha, WI. The rest of the NBA’s players supported the Buck’s move and boycotted as well. On that same Wednesday, players, general managers and owners met to discuss how to move forward. Unsure about ending or continuing the season, players like Lebron James and Chris Paul consulted former President Barack Obama over what they should do next. Ultimately Obama urged them to play, and although the playoff season restarted, NBA players faced criticism from President Trump, echoing the same concerns that he had about NFL players. Trump condemned them for making “sports political.”

Yet, the world and the NBA world are not separate. NBA players’ response was the right thing to do, especially for the Bucks to initiate the boycott. The shooting happened back home, the home state they play for, and it didn’t feel right to them to play and pretend like nothing’s wrong. NBA players bursting the billion dollar sport/entertainment industry’s bubble is forcing people, especially those who usually use the game to escape from the world’s troubles, to pay attention. 

The NBA strike was a power move in seeking justice because the  NBA came together in support of the Bucks, unlike what happened in 2016. It was easy to ignore Kaepernick in 2016. He was alone, football games continued, and people continued to enjoy their lives without interruption. But how can you ignore what’s going on now? Unity made the strike stronger and the message clear that they will not stand silent when these injustices continue to occur. The NBA players understood the platform they have and the industry that they serve and used the playoffs to bring attention to the racial injustices that have been ignored for far too long. The reality of the matter is once they take those jerseys off, they too are a target for police brutality. 

Simply being Black in America increases one’s likeliness of getting killed. Just because of the color of their skin, they are 3 times more likely to lose their lives in a routine traffic stop or encounter with a police officer due to integrated racism in our police force. 99% of killings by police from 2013-2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime. That’s why police brutality continues to happen, there is no accountability and the BLM movement seeks just that, along with police reform. 

The NBA hadn’t done enough for the Black Lives Matter movement until players pressured for more. Including “Black Lives Matter” on jerseys and stadium floors started the conversation, but it wasn’t enough. The powerful and rich owners of the teams were not doing enough with their financial privilege to support the movement. I think opening up polling locations, establishing a coalition for racial justice and advertising civic engagement to fans is a great initiative, but the conversation shouldn’t end there. 

On this same note, it shouldn’t have taken the NBA players to strike for the NBA to do something about the racial injustice happening in the country, but this serves as an example that if we apply pressure, we too can demand and create change. NBA players taking part and using their huge platform strengthens and highlights the unity of how strong we are together. They can’t continue to ignore how broken America is, and the systemic racism in place within the police force and law. 

I think Obama’s response was looking at the future of the movement in its entirety, because if NBA players stop playing, the conversation stops. NBA players know they have the leverage, so they’ll continue to use their platform to apply pressure. The news usually stops covering protesters, thus diminishing their power and slowing down the movement. NBA players know this and are choosing to use their platform to continue the conversation and push for legislation/action strengthening the movement as a whole. 

Together we create change, but change doesn’t happen if we don’t use our voice and call out injustice. Being silent means we are okay with what’s going on. One way we can support the movement is by following the Bucks advice, “We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3. Use your vote to call out the injustices happening in our country, because together we can create change like the players in the NBA.