Sports fans react to strikes over police shooting of Jacob Blake

Race in America

NEW YORK (NewsNation) — New York sports fans are known to be tough, but outside Madison Square Garden there’s compassion and understanding as a wildcat strike spreads through the world of sports. The Jets canceled their practice Thursday. 

“Sports unite us,” said one passerby. “We need them now more than ever.”

It’s a sentiment that echoes some of the national reaction to high-paid athletes using their platform to bring awareness to acts of racism and injustice.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich told reporters, “I don’t know why it’s a tough discussion. It’s amazing that it’s 2020 and it’s still a tough discussion.”

In Los Angeles, avid sports fan David Akinolalakes expressed his admiration for athletes taking a stand. “These are the kind of statements that really bring change, bring progressiveness to our communities, to our people,” he said.

But for every fan who feels one way, you can easily find the opposite. It’s the nature of the game, whichever game it happens to be.

“I think it’s disgusting — just horrible,” Mike Ourieff told NewsNation. “I don’t think teams should be making a political statement like that.”

It started with the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision not to take the floor for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic Wednesday.

Wrongly labeled the ‘NBA boycott’ over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the wildcat strike spread with blinding speed. NFL practices were canceled Thursday for the Bears, Colts, Packers and several other teams. Games were called off in Major League Baseball, the WBNA and professional soccer, even though passionately diverging opinions can be found among players on the same teams.

Sports quickly merged with politics, as former president Barack Obama tweeted his support for the players’ activism.

Senior advisor to the current White House, Jared Kushner, went another way in a network interview.

“Look,” he said, “I think with the NBA, there’s a lot of activism, and I think that they’ve put a lot of slogans out. But I think what we need to do is turn that from slogans and signals to actual action that’s going to solve the problem.”

Leading sports figures say the problem is that despite growing awareness, deadly clashes between police and minorities continue to occur with alarming regularity.

“These times are unprecedented,” said Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy. “Things need to change. You know, I grew up in a home with public safety, but I just don’t understand why it keeps happening. I think I’m like everybody else– I don’t have the answers, but things need to change.”

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