Sports stars' walk-offs highlight clout in race debate across U.S.

2020-09-02 10:40:16China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Hundreds of professional athletes, led by members of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, demonstrated the increasing political influence of sports stars when they turned their backs on fixtures in solidarity with protests against the police shooting of a black man.

Jacob Blake, 29, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot seven times from behind and left seriously injured on Aug 23. The incident was captured on video and sparked a new round of protests in the United States.

Those protests have reverberated across the political sphere, where unrest in a number of cities has become a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Monday accused US President Donald Trump of stoking the violence after a week of deadly unrest.

Accusing Trump of "poisoning" the nation's values, Biden condemned the violence at recent protests, blaming them on Trump's divisive presidency.

On the sports front, NBA player George Hill of the Bucks implored his teammates not to take to the court for a scheduled game last Wednesday. He called it a statement about how police treat African Americans.

That move inspired many other professional athletes to take similar actions in their sports, delaying scores of scheduled games in basketball, baseball, football, soccer and hockey.

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka pulled out of the Western& Southern Open semifinals set for last Thursday. "Watching the continued genocide of black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach," she wrote on Twitter.

Following the walkout by the Bucks, the NBA postponed playoff games, including the Bucks versus Orlando Magic, the Houston Rockets vs the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers vs the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets.

NBA star LeBron James tweeted about the Blake shooting: "Change doesn't happen with just talk! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!"

James initially favored not continuing the season but changed his mind after he sought advice from former president Barack Obama on Wednesday.

Brave and inspiring strike

Obama's office issued a statement on Friday about the meeting: "When asked, he was happy to provide advice on Wednesday night to a small group of NBA players seeking to leverage their immense platforms for good after their brave and inspiring strike in the wake of Jacob Blake's shooting."

On Thursday, baseball players from the New York Mets and Miami Marlins walked off the field in unison after observing 42 seconds of silence, leaving behind a "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt across home plate at Citi Field in New York.

"The words on the shirt speak for themselves," Marlins player Lewis Brinson told The Associated Press.

About 10 Major League Baseball games were postponed.

WNBA players, in support of their male NBA counterparts, postponed their games set for Thursday. Instead of playing, the female players stood arm in arm on the basketball court while wearing shirts spelling out Blake's name.

Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA Players Association president who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks, said on ESPN that it's not a strike or boycott. "This is affirmatively a day of reflection," Ogwumike said.

A few National Football League teams canceled practice on Thursday to have discussions on race.

The Chicago Bears issued a statement: "We all agreed that talks and discussions are simply not enough anymore and we need action."

Major League Soccer postponed five games last Wednesday and issued a statement: "The entire Major League Soccer family unequivocally condemns racism and has always stood for equality."

The National Hockey League postponed four games last week to demonstrate a similar position.

With the professional athletes having made their point, many of the top leagues, including the NBA, have resumed fixtures.

Passions are likely to remain high among sports stars this week. Trump was planning to visit Kenosha on Tuesday, despite pleas from Wisconsin's Democratic governor for him to stay away for fears of sparking more tumult on the streets.


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