The Milwaukee Bucks shocked some fans on Aug. 26 when they chose to not take the court for their scheduled playoff game in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was left paralyzed after being shot in the back multiple times by Kenosha police Officer Rusten Sheskey.
The decision by the Bucks was supported by the NBA, which postponed last Wednesday's playoff games. The Milwaukee Brewers followed suit, skipping their game and other MLB teams joined in on the boycott.
In some ways, the decision was historic and unprecedented. But it can also be seen as the culmination of a season in sports that has been noticeably and unmistakably political.
From “Black Lives Matter” painted on NBA courts, to jerseys that replaced names with things like “I Can’t Breathe” and “Enough,” UW-Milwaukee assistant professor Michael Mirer says there hasn’t been a time in sports history as profoundly political as what we’re seeing today.
"What’s impressive is how willing NBA players have been to put themselves into this protest movement. We’re a long way away from the period of time where Michael Jordan said, 'Republicans buy sneakers too,' " says Mirer.
Athletes understand that their workplaces are filled with cameras, explains Mirer, and they know that gives them a platform that many activists struggle to achieve. This was part of the push to include messages on their jerseys and on the courts, but Mirer thinks that NBA players felt like the discussion was being lost.
“After three and a half weeks of watching games on courts that say ‘Black Lives Matter’, people stopped noticing,” he says. “[The boycott] forces people back to that original message, that there are problems that need to be addressed and the problems are not being addressed.”
After the league and players reached an agreement centered around efforts to increase voter turnout, the NBA playoffs have resumed with players continuing to speak out against police brutality.