Just like that, the sports world came to a halt.
Amidst a pandemic, with nothing much to look forward to, we yearned for any bit of normalcy to return to our lives. We wanted so badly for just a sliver of what life was once like. Even if it were only for a fleeting moment, we longed to be able to escape the never-ending nightmare of the year we’re stuck in. And like a white night in shining armor came Adam Silver–named aptly for the job.
After months of preparation, planning, testing, and negotiating, it was finally announced: the NBA, and live sports with it, would return . Like adding honey on an bitter apple slice, the summer was given new life. Following the NBA’s lead, all the major sports leagues put into action their own plans to restart play amidst an ongoing pandemic.
Excited and eager to escape the constant drone of the news, we grab our bag of chips and a beer, and sit down in our lucky spot to watch our favorite teams duke it out, only to find out that the games are…postponed?
NBA locker rooms, deserted. MLB stadiums, vacant. The WNBA and MLS, much the same. Even rising tennis star Naomi Osaka tweeted that she would take a step back from the Western & Southern Open semi-finals. After months and months of uncertainty, and all the work that went into bubble planning and quarantines, they just walk away?
This is a definitely a new approach to racial justice in the world of athletics. Till now, we’ve seen it painted on the court, we’ve seen it stitched onto their jerseys and tattooed on their skin. Black Lives Matter. Heck, we’ve even seen it go as far as athletes kneeling during the National Anthem.
Some claimed it was powerful while others cried foul. What better example than the modern day poster athlete for social justice, Colin Kaepernick. To some, he was a hero, a champion of the people, risking his life-long dream and career in the pursuit of something far greater. To others, he was a washed up quarterback looking to get back into the spotlight.
So what category do these walkouts fall under? These athletes were arguably the cream of the crop, at the peak of their play, fighting for playoff supremacy, in the NBA’s case. What more spotlight did they need? What attention did they not already have? Were they all just overly self-righteous?
In all fairness, what did they really think they could achieve by walking out on their jobs? According to internet trolls, the players probably believe they ended racism. Of course, we know that’s not true, but that still begs the questions. What does this really do for their cause?
Was it all really just an emotional over-reaction to an incident that happened hundreds of miles from where they were? Or was it a justified reaction, coming after months of unrest and pleas for social reform, only to see a man, someone who looks just like you, your friend, your father, brother, uncle, neighbor, get shot 7 times in the back while unarmed?
Jacob Blake was not perfectly innocent. He was on his girlfriends property when he wasn’t supposed to be. He wasn’t complying with police orders and was resisting arrest. There was even a warrant out for his arrest, and he admitted he had a knife in his car. But do these transgressions really mean he deserves to be shot, paralyzed, and potentially killed?
The issue at hand is not that an innocent man was shot by a cop. The bigger concern is that when it comes to race, officers of the law feel more inclined to fire their weapon and use excessive force towards a black man than they would a white man. This is not a matter of opinion, but one of pure facts.
“But he had a knife in the car. What if he was reaching for it?”
What if, indeed. What if he had been trying to get into the car to use it as a weapon, itself, running the officers down. Would that have warranted him getting shot, as well?
Well then, what about this?
A video released on Twitter shows an officer, from Kenosha, Wisconsin, handling a similar incident, only the suspect was white. This suspect not only disobeyed the officer’s commands, he also assaulted the officer, ran from him, jumped in his car, jumped into the police car(!), and eventually rammed his own car into the police cruiser. He was tased, but when that proved to be ineffective, not one single shot was fired—not at him, not at his car. Even when he posed a discernible threat.
These two situations were handled by the exact same police department, so why were their conclusions so drastically different? Sure, the officers were different; you never know how it could have gone down had they traded places. But it’s evidence like this that drives a response so great that professional athletes, who also happen to be citizens of the nation, don’t just ask for change—they demand it.
Now, mind you, no one is advocating for the police to go around shooting someone every time they feel threatened, nor is anyone disregarding the realities of police work and why officers may be on edge. But the video speaks for itself. Both men were tased at some point and both men were unfazed by it. What happened after the taser failed was the issue, because in one of those situations, protocol was evidently not followed.