US professional basketball players begin strike over police killings

Athletes from the NBA and WNBA announced that they would not play in upcoming games in light of the ongoing struggle against racism and police killings

August 27, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Players from the WNBA took a decision to not play their scheduled game on August 26 to stand in solidarity with the ongoing struggle against racism and police violence. Instead the two teams came together, locked arms, held signs that read "Jacob Blake" and had a moment of silence. Photo: WNBA

Basketball players from the Wisconsin-based Milwaukee Bucks in the United States held an emotional press conference on Wednesday, August 26, to announce that they would not be playing in the upcoming game against the Orlando Magic. Their announcement comes after the brutal shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake on Sunday August 23 by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin which was recorded by a neighbor and widely circulated on the internet.

The shooting of Blake comes amid a nationwide movement against police violence and racism, sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis on May 25. Since Floyd’s murder, despite persistent demands by protesters for structural change, the violence against Black people by the police has not stopped. Those who have taken the streets to protest have also been met with violence, repression and legal persecution.

In their statement last night the players said: “The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities… Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

Following the announcement by the Bucks, the National Basketball Association decided to suspend all playoff games scheduled for August 26. Meanwhile, more and more players have spoken out in support of the protests against racism and to demand that concrete changes be taken immediately.

Basketball legend Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers tweeted, “F*** THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT.”

Players from the Women’s National Basketball Association also made a collective decision to not play in the games on August 26 and made statements to the press in support of the Black Lives Matters protests and against racism. Ariel Atkins of the Washington Mystics told an ESPN reporter, “[People] need to understand that when most of us [WNBA players] go home, we still are Black in the sense that our families matter. We’re not just basketball players… We need to understand that these moments are so much more bigger than us.”