On Sunday, there were four NBA playoff games, three WNBA games, two NHL playoff games, one MLS game and 14 MLB games.
The same day, Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle. Three of his children were inside the vehicle. Officers said they were responding to a domestic disturbance. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media.
Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump, said his client is paralyzed, and it will “take a miracle” for him to walk again.
The sports world, since returning to play during the coronavirus pandemic, has been outspoken in its support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was reinvigorated after the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in police custody after an officer kneeled on his neck for more than seven minutes.
The NBA and the WNBA have been fighting against racial injustice for decades. In 2012, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and their Miami Heat teammates posed while wearing hoodies for a photo, posted with the hashtag #WeAreTrayvonMartin, in memory of a Florida teen who was killed a month earlier.
Following the shooting of Blake, athletes boycotted games on Wednesday — three days after the incident. The buildup was there all week, with players speaking out before and after games and on social media.
Here is a brief timeline of events:
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association, sends a message of support to Jacob Blake’s family after his team’s Game 4 win against the Houston Rockets.
“I just want to send my prayers out to Jacob Blake and their family.”
Chris Paul had a message after the Game 4 win. pic.twitter.com/OI0aWXvCHE
— ESPN (@espn) August 24, 2020
LeBron James gives impassioned remarks after the Los Angeles Lakers win Game 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as Black people in America,” he says.
Setting the stage for the first team to boycott a game, the Milwaukee Bucks express frustration about the shooting after their Game 4 win against the Orlando Magic. The Milwaukee Brewers also issue a statement.
Other NBA athletes, such as the Miami Heat‘s Bam Adebayo, speak about Blake’s shooting.
A handful of NFL stars tweet from their respective minicamps.
Although the NFL season has yet to kick off, the Green Bay Packers hold a meeting between coach Matt LaFleur and the players’ leadership council to discuss what actions they can take after the shooting of Blake.
Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown demands Black people be treated equally. He has been one of the most outspoken NBA players about racial injustice.
The Toronto Raptors discuss a boycott of Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.
The Detroit Lions cancel their practice and address reporters as a team in front of their building to deliver a unified message.
“As a team, we looked each other in the eyes and realized that football isn’t important today,” Lions safety Duron Harmon says. “We have a platform that we are able to use not just to raise awareness but to create change.”
The three NBA Game 5s set for Wednesday are postponed after the Bucks announce they will not play. Their game was slated to begin at 4 p.m. ET.
All three scheduled WNBA games are also delayed. The three games were between the Atlanta Dream and defending WNBA champion Washington Mystics; the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx; and the Connecticut Sun and Phoenix Mercury.
Three MLB games are then postponed: Milwaukee Brewers–Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres–Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers–San Francisco Giants. The Mariners had the most Black players on an Opening Day roster this season.
In soccer, five MLS matches are called off, though the match between Orlando City SC and Nashville SC goes ahead as scheduled.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka reaches the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open — and then announces on Twitter that she is withdrawing from the tournament to move the focus to the fight for racial equality.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) August 27, 2020
“Watching the continuing genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach,” Osaka says in her statement.
Several hours after Osaka’s statement, the tournament announced it was pausing play for a day.