Wave of protest in American sports world against police violence

The refusal of Milwaukee Bucks’ basketball players to play matches for as long as police violence in the US continues against the black population has triggered a chain reaction in the American sports world.

The Bucks decided Wednesday night not to play the fifth game in the playoff series against Orlando Magic after a black man was shot by police in the city of Kenosha, just south of Milwaukee.

In May, George Floyd died in Minneapolis after being harassed by agents, after which protests started throughout the country. The Black Lives Matter movement, which had been formed earlier, gained significance as a result of that event, resulting in worldwide demonstrations.

‘More important things that deserve attention’

In the hours following the Bucks’ decision, baseball club MLB, women’s basketball club WNBA and soccer club MLS announced that several duels would be cancelled and tennis star Naomi Osaka announced that she would not be playing for the time being.

The NBA also decided to cancel Wednesday’s two other games in the playoffs (Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers).

Also in MLB (three duels) and MLS (five duels) was not played. Kelvin Leerdam, former player of Feyenoord and Vitesse and now active for Seattle Sounders, was outspoken about the issue. “As an athlete you live in a bubble, but we wanted to show everyone that we see what’s happening and that it affects us too. These are difficult times, but we need to take a stand.”

Two of the three duels in the WNBA were about to begin when it became known that there would be no play.

For the WNBA game between Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream, the players of the Mystics made a statement by wearing shirts with seven bullet holes on the back.

IJshockeybond NHL decided not to cancel the three scheduled playoff duels, much to the annoyance of Evander Kane, a black player of San Jose Sharks.

“You can send tweets, post stories and photos on Instagram, but in the end it’s all about real action and meaningful change. Unfortunately, that’s still not happening, it needs to get better,” Kane said in conversation with sports website The Score.

On Twitter he added: “It’s insulting for a black man in hockey. The lack of action and recognition from the NHL is downright humiliating.”

The US-grown Japanese Osaka, who earlier in the day won her quarterfinal game at the WTA tournament in New York from the Estonian Anett Kontaveit, let her party know she wouldn’t act in the semifinals.

“I don’t expect much will change if I don’t play, but if I can start a conversation in this predominantly white sport, then I see that as a step in the right direction”, says Osaka.

After Osaka’s decision, the organization of the Western & Southern Open announced that it has postponed all games until Friday. It is not known if Osaka will take action after that.