The sports world was turned on its head as teams and players boycotted but true sacrifice by athletes will be needed to spark long-term change.
After four years to the day that Colin Kaepernick first spoke out in protest of racial injustice, the sports world has been turned on its head with the news that all tennis matches, NBA games, and MLB games will be postponed in protest of the police brutality that has swept the nation, most recently in the form of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha this past weekend.
Naomi Osaka led the way yesterday in the tennis world, stating she would boycott her semifinal match in order to protest. Her decision followed the Milwaukee Bucks’ respective boycott of their Game 5 matchup with the Orlando Magic. It was a historic move in the sports world; nothing like this had ever happened before. Athletes were showing what truly mattered, and it wasn’t sports. Change was needed and it was well overdue.
Despite the historic decision, however, White House officials dismissed the significance of yesterday’s events.
“I don’t know that you’re going to see the administration weigh in on that one way or the other. In my mind, it’s absurd, it’s silly.” Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff, Marc Short, said. “If they want to protest, I don’t think we care.”
It’s clear that a one-day protest isn’t going to be enough, even Jared Kushner (President Trump’s son-in-law) aims to reach out to Lebron James to talk through a possible start at change. It’s abundantly clear that change likely won’t come as of now. Both the President and Vice President disregarding the vicious Kenosha shooting at the Republican National Convention, instead opting to discuss the condemning of post-shooting violence in the Wisconsin city, therefore disregarding the cries for change that are happening from one end of the country to the other.
The United States is an economically-driven country. The main focus on the minds of people, specifically those in business, is the economy and how their respective industries can gain as much revenue as possible. This extends everywhere and has most notably been shown in the sports industry.
In the world of tennis, multiple plans have been put in place to extend the season despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While only a small number of tests have been brought back positive, the building blocks are there for a widespread slew of positives. Fans, naively, enjoy the return of sports, therefore allowing their businesses to thrive.
While athletes currently have the ultimate voice for change and have done so much in advancing the conversation, the time for major change is now. That will come with sacrifice.
Naomi Osaka’s boycott of her semifinal match was incredible. It spurred change in tennis and led to the full postponement of the Western & Southern Open semifinals. The Bucks’ boycott did the same in the NBA.
The decision to resume play, especially after just one day, unfortunately, isn’t going to do enough to spur change. Players need to say, “We’re not playing until something actually happens”. Talking about change is an important step but it’s been this way for a little while now. It’s time to move onto Step 2.
It’s time to see real change. Physical change. That might not come easy, which is why athletes have the ultimate leverage to spearhead the start of it. Owners, tournament directors, and most importantly, President Trump and his staff. Telling them isn’t going to be a long-term fix.
Show everyone that your push for change is truly real. Tell them that change is more important than playing sports.
Naomi Osaka and the rest of the tennis world, truly show that this matters by refusing to play, instead of returning to play a day later.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the other 5 teams that voted to resue the playoffs, show the NBA that your boycott yesterday for a reason. Show them that basketball simply isn’t big enough to carry on.
People will get the memo. Change needs to come and athletes need to make a difficult choice for the greater good. Carry on the legacies of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and the countless others who have lost their lives due to racial injustice.
Take a true stand, athletes. The time is now.