Sports Are on Strike for Jacob Blake and Black Lives

Sports are on strike for Jacob Blake

On Sunday night, 29-year-old Jacob Blake was breaking up a fight between two women in Kenosha, WI when KPD responded and shot him in the back seven times. He was leaning toward his car in which his 3, 5, and 8-year-old sons were sitting when they discharged their weapons into his body. Although Jacob is one of the “lucky” ones—a rare victim of police violence who lived—he is now paralyzed from the waist down and, along with his three babies, will undoubtedly be traumatized for life. As a response to the waves of recent police shootings, many of the professional sports are on strike indefinitely. We already know that policing is inherently ruthless, racist, and violent (I wrote about abolishing the institution here), as there has never been a moment in history where Black people weren’t being abused, tortured, arrested, or lynched by local cops. Pigs across the country have been especially bloodthirsty since the start of the COVID pandemic, which has led to a summer of uprisings molded by the perfect storm: a lethal virus unlikely to stop anytime soon, record high unemployment, useless politicians, mass evictions, and cops unloading their fists and guns on anyone they please. We’ve seen them kill Black people in recent cases—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Trayford Pellerin last Friday, and now Jacob Blake on Sunday. Because of these murders, sports are on strike as athletes are finally speaking up (with the exception of the WNBA who have always been vocal about their positions) and demanding solutions to the relentless violence.

Following the WNBA, the Milwaukee Bucks as a team decided not to play in Game 5 of their playoffs against the Orlando Magic today. Shortly after, the NBA postponed the rest of the day’s games and the Milwaukee Brewers also chose not to play. The Bucks released a statement after Game 5 was called off, saying, “When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard and, in this moment, we are demanding the same of lawmakers and law enforcement. It is imperative for the Wisconsin state legislature to reconvene after months of inaction, and take the meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.” The WNBA did not play any of their three scheduled games tonight, five of the six Major League Soccer games were postponed in solidarity, and tennis superchamp Naomi Osaka announced she would not be competing in the Western & Southern Open semifinals. Osaka wrote a note in English and Japanese, which partially read, “As a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. 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. Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.” In response, the WTA, ATP, and USTA postponed every match on today’s schedule.

America is on a speeding track toward total destruction, and for good reason. A country built on white supremacy, inequity, violence, and genocide cannot in any way continue existing without revolution. In such a rare moment as this where everything awful is combining at once and the entire world has stopped, it’s inspiring to see uprisings, riots, the demolition of prisons and jails and courthouses and police departments, and even the unexpected moments of solidarity like how sports are on strike. If there’s any time to organize and build community with others in the face of fascism and unhinged state-sanctioned violence, it’s now. Justice for Jacob Blake and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain and Trayford Pellerin is the abolition of every systemic structure created to oppress and eliminate people. Let’s get to work.