hen the history of this strange, unprecedented era in sports is written, yesterday — Aug. 26 — will be one of the more significant dates of 2020.
Four years to the day after Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest police brutality, the Milwaukee Bucks enacted a teamwide strike, opting not to play Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
The walkout, like the protests before it, is stirring strong emotions all along the political spectrum. Here, we’ll try to separate truth from hyperbole, and give you a bit of fact-based perspective on why the walkout happened, what it means, and what could come next.
Why did the Bucks decide not to play?
The Bucks are protesting police brutality, specifically the case of Jacob Blake. Kenosha (Wisconsin) police shot Blake in the back multiple times on Sunday afternoon after arriving on scene because of a disturbance call.
Blake, who survived the shooting, is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his family, though it’s uncertain if that is permanent.
Protests in the wake of Blake’s shooting have turned violent. Tuesday night, a 17-year-old bearing an assault rifle allegedly shot and killed two people during the protest.
The Bucks, who have current and former players on their roster who have experienced police brutality firsthand, decided that they would use their platform and their power to draw attention to the issue, and they hope to enact some meaningful change.
What does the team hope to achieve?
Let’s be honest: in these polarized, us-vs.-them times, most opinions are already set in stone, and nobody’s going to be swayed by seeing sports teams walk off the playing field. That said, the Bucks aren’t trying to reach Joe or Jane Sports Fan on the couch. They’re looking on a higher plane.
Several outlets reported that the Bucks, while in their locker room, were in contact with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, presumably to spur change at the state level. As one of Wisconsin’s most visible entities, the Bucks — a championship-level franchise — have more power now than they ever have before.
Will the Bucks have to forfeit?
That’s honestly the least of their concerns, and not really the focus here. But for the record, the Magic have said they will not accept a victory by forfeit, and the NBA has indicated that it will reschedule the game, not credit it to Orlando.
Will other leagues participate?
Yes. About two hours after the Bucks decided not to play, baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers made the same decision, as did a few other (but not all) MLB teams. So did the WNBA and MLS. At least one NFL team has canceled today's practices. The more leagues that participate, the more strength the movement gains.
Agree or disagree, it should be clear by now to all watching that this isn't a case of "pampered athletes complaining." These are players from across the sports spectrum willing to put their life's dreams on the line for something bigger than themselves. Disturbing cell phone videos involving police and the use of force continue to surface, and the players have decided, enough.
Late Wednesday night, the 14 teams still in the bubble met to discuss just that. According to our own Chris Haynes, the Lakers and Clippers voted to stop playing now. Both teams then exited the meeting, with LeBron James storming out, per Vincent Goodwill. The remaining 12 teams voted to keep playing, according to reports. No official decision has been made, and the players will reconvene today to continue their conversation.
Beyond that, any kind of prediction is impossible in this unprecedented moment in sports history.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at email@example.com.
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