It was an “unprecedented day in sports history”. The Milwaukee Bucks stayed in the dressing room last night, ultimately deciding to not play in last night’s NBA playoff game against Orlando to protest police officer Rusten Sheskey shooting and subsequently paralysing Jacob Blake. They were supported by the Magic players, and the league postponed three games. Following that, there were other player strikes and postponements in the WNBA, MLB, and MLS. And Naomi Osaka announced that she would not play her semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open, a warmup for the US Open next week. The ATP, WTA, and USTA then decided that the tournament would be suspended today. It is not yet known whether or not play will resume on Friday. It doesn’t seem likely that play will resume in the NBA today either.
While the athletes have received a lot of encouragement from their peers and fans, there are those, disappointingly, who still don’t get it. Naomi’s statement, however, gives us the “why”:
As she writes, “I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction.”
That is exactly why. People are talking about it. People who aren’t Black or Indigenous are talking about it – and that’s precisely who should be talking about it. As Ava DuVernay said back in May, the week that Amy Cooper threatened Christian Cooper’s life, on the same day George Floyd was murdered:
It’s time for the rest of us to take up the labour. To challenge people in our own circles. To challenge ourselves. Even if we haven’t been perfect. Because we haven’t been perfect – whether or not it’s through our complacency or our own past biases and prejudices – since we’ve been there, we can commit to change and assist others on the path to change.
All last night and all today, and in the days to come, hopefully, the Milwaukee Bucks and players from the other teams in the NBA will have made it impossible for more people who were avoiding having to confront anti-Black racism and continue pretending like this isn’t a crisis of humanity and that in order to get to a better place, everyone will have to participate.
Yours in gossip,