Photo by Mike Von (See more of Von’s Work at https://www.thevoncomplex.com/)
By Eli Elstein
Okay fair warning, this is going to be a tough read. It’s already tough to write and I haven’t even said anything significant yet. This post is about the recent attempted murder of Jacob Blake, a black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake was shot in the back 7 times by police while trying to get into his car while his children watched from the backseat. Miraculously, he is still alive. He is paralyzed from the waist down, but he and his children will still live with this trauma for the remainder of their lives.
I’ll begin by talking about the sports world’s various responses to this latest example of the racist police state that black people must live in. I’ll then give my thoughts about the situation and how it fits into America at large. If you haven’t yet listened to our podcast on sports leagues’ responses to the protests, I urge you now to do so. I had the pleasure of having a candid discussion with Branden, a black sports fan in America, who was nice enough to share his thoughts and experience. While the podcast is a great jumping off point, there are plenty of very useful resources to pay attention to. It is imperative that we continue to learn.
The players of the NBA playoffs briefly stopped all games to have players-only discussions about what they as a community can do. The league allowed this to happen, but it is a movement led by the players. They have begun playing games again, but steps will be taken to create change starting with turning every NBA arena into a voting center. Many games in the MLB were postponed as players refused to play, sharing their commitment to social justice as well. Multiple NFL teams canceled practices and spoke as a team about their commitment to change. The players of the WNBA, who have been fighting for change actively for a long time, canceled games as well. Maya Moore, Renee Montgomery, and Natasha Cloud all sat out of the bubble to fight for social justice, unlike many others who sat out for fears of COVID-19. The Washington Mystics’ wore white shirts with “Jacob Blake” written on the front and 7 faux-bullet holes in the back (the same number of shots that paralyzed Blake). Players in the NHL have been upset that their league hasn’t done the same.
This is truly the most incredible thing I’ve seen happen in the sports world in my lifetime. Four years to the day after Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the first time, the players built upon what he layed out for them. The sports world is sending a message to America, one that says “we will not play for you. We will not shut up and dribble anymore. We will not entertain and distract the masses while our people are murdered. Pay attention. We are fixing this.” What a powerful message to send.
And what a powerful message for America to receive. Change is coming and this time it will not be slowed down. Jacob Blake is just the latest attempt at murder by police officers. He is more than just another name, another hashtag, another news story. He is also a father, a son, and above all, a human being, just like everyone reading this.
I have to be honest, I don’t see how anyone can be shocked that this happened. It is the standard now and has been for a very long time. The world needs to change and we need to be the ones to change it.
I will be following the players’ lead. I hope you do, too.