On Tuesday, Aug. 25, following the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake by police that morning, the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL) cancelled practice.
By Thursday night, every major sports league in the United States had performed some fashion of a boycott or walkout.
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) boycotted their playoff game against the Orlando Magic. Bucks players, representing a city only 30 miles from Kenosha, WI, the location of Blake’s shooting, released a statement decrying the shooting of Blake and the shooting of three protestors by Illinois resident Kyle Rittenhouse.
The National Hockey League (NHL) and NBA announced league-wide walkouts on Thursday, Aug. 28 that extended to the weekend. The NHL was criticized and mocked in the Canadian media after games were allowed to continue Wednesday after the Bucks had already announced their protest. The league was accused of “passing the buck,” forcing players to decide on postponement only shortly before their scheduled game.
Later that day, however, the NHL announced it would follow the NBA’s lead in postponing the remaining games that week. NHL players Matt Dumba and Evander Kane, members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, an organization Kane co-heads, spoke with over 100 other players before the announcement. The Vancouver Canucks of the NHL were reportedly instrumental in their support of Dumba and Kane in meetings with the player’s association.
Neither league has taken further political action since that week, although the coaching staff of the Milwaukee Bucks criticized Jared Kushner’s comments about the walkout.
“Look, I think that the NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially,” Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, said. “So they have that luxury, which is great,” he continued.
Comments from other members of the Trump administration were similarly critical. Marc Short, the chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence said, “I don’t think we care.” Short was asked if the administration supported the protests. “Look, I don’t know that you’re going to see the administration weigh in on that one way or the other,” he said. “In my mind, it’s absurd, it’s silly.”
President Trump himself was critical of the NBA, although he didn’t mention the protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake in particular. “They’ve become like a political organization, and that’s not a good thing,” he told reporters at a briefing related to Hurricane Laura. “I don’t know much about the NBA protest. I know their ratings are very bad,” he said. As a whole, viewership of the first round of the NBA playoffs was down 27% from the previous year, and down 40% from the year before that.
President Trump later extended his comments to the NFL and MLB. “People are tired of watching the highly political NBA,” he wrote on Twitter. “Basketball ratings are WAY down, and they won’t be coming back. I hope football and baseball are watching and learning because the same thing will be happening to them.”
In the MLB, six teams walked out of their scheduled games. These were the games between the Milwaukee Brewers — another team for whom the shooting was close to home — and the Cincinnati Reds, the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners, and the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The NFL has not begun play, but the Arizona Cardinals, the Tennessee Titans, and the Green Bay packers cancelled practice, in addition to the Lions.