Student-athletes react to professional athlete strikes in response to Jacob Blake shooting

On Sunday, Aug. 23, Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer. In response, the players of the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to take the court for game five of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Aug. 26, in protest of yet another instance of police violence against a Black life – this time just 40 miles from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

The NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS all postponed games the same day and reigning tennis world champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from the semifinals of the Western and Southern Open. In the following days, the NHL also joined the movement by postponing games. Professional athletes and sport organizations are using their platform to express their voice, share their support and demand change. 

The Poly Post interviewed student-athletes on their reaction to police killings of Black lives and the ensuing response by professional athletes. 

Leilia Orji | senior center, psychology

Seeing many professional teams have such a strong response to Jacob Blake’s shooting has left me with conflicting feelings. This isn’t the first time that professional athletes have spoken out on the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole. In 2013, LeBron James was criticized for speaking out, forming the narrative that ‘athletes should be seen, not heard,’ which is where I feel a bit disappointed in what the media decides to focus on. What we’ve been seeing people react to is the athletes and their boycotts, but not what these boycotts represent. This is not the fault of the athletes; the gesture itself represents that they are willing to sacrifice their reputation and livelihood to stand up for what is right. What needs to shift is the topic of discussion: Jacob Blake’s case, George Floyd’s case, Breonna Taylor’s case and the countless others that are still not met with the justice they deserve. So, I am in full support of professional teams boycotting games because it gets the discussion started. We just need to push it in the right direction.” 


Phoenix Shackelford | senior guard, liberal studies

“I don’t think that we should be playing sports at all with all of the civil unrest going on. Sports in present times have proven to be a profound distraction to the real issues going on with our society and government. The boycott of a few games was cool to me at first, but because they continued to play sports, turned out to mean nothing at the end of the day. All the boycotts did were prove how much of a distraction sports have caused. There are still protests going on in almost every major city and none of it has been talked about. As much as I love sports and am a fanatic, I fully support boycotting sports and fixing more concerning issues in America.” 


John Pappas | sophomore catcher, biology

“I believe that the boycotting we witnessed was something we will not soon forget. The one moment in particular that really stood out to me was when the Mariners and Mets of the MLB went onto the field, held a moment of silence, left the field, only leaving behind a single ‘Black Lives Matter’ tee shirt on home plate. Seeing athletes voicing their opinions and feelings toward social injustice, and watching it ripple across the sports world made me realize that we all have a voice; it’s just up to us to use it. The situation of Jacob Blake is nothing short of a tragedy, and seeing these professionals portray themselves as everyday people with views and opinions just like us really left a lasting impact on me. As we move forward through this time, I hope to see more men and women partake in similar behavior: voicing their opinions and standing up to the injustices in our society.” 


Jayda Villareal | junior guard, psychology

“I thought that the NBA and WNBA players taking a stance and boycotting their games as a peaceful protest was a great thing for people in their position to do. I believe that many kids and even adults look up to and respect professional athletes, and for them to use their platform to relay a message this big is very powerful. “ 


Ateno Ajeakwa | senior midfielder, business administration

“The state of the country right now is extremely hectic; emotions are blaring, and the people are looking to their idols to stand up and fight for them. These professional sports organizations are doing just that. Showing the people that they hear us, and that they stand with us. It takes true character to stand up for what you believe in, especially when you hold a strong position in the hearts and thoughts of many. I am all for it, and I respect their decisions. I love to see the love. Black Lives Matter! 


Gavin Velasquez | senior pitcher, business marketing

I believe with professional athletes coming together and postponing some of their games due to the Jacob Blake incident is a positive statement. It shows that real life events come first and foremost. They took a stand for what they believe in and I think they are using their status and platforms to take steps in the right direction to help create change. Although they understand that sports are their profession and it provides entertainment, they also understand that what is going on in the world is a bit larger than sports right now. 


Jordan Aldama, senior goalkeeper, psychology

“I appreciate the fact that many sports organizations came together to boycott for Jacob Blake. What these icons and idols are doing is calling for justice and demanding the officers to be held responsible. Professional athletes are focusing on issues far greater than their sport which is drawing attention to our nation’s pain, to our communities’ pain, and to systematic racism. For my teammates and I, many of these injustices, and systemic racism, is deeply personal. We support (the) Black Lives Matter movement and athletes all around the world using their platform for change because change is necessary.”   


Courtland Hawkins | senior center back, finance

“I believe this is a good thing. It brings attention to the inequality in our society. This is important because so many people our age have never talked about systemic racism before. Professional sports organizations are putting a light on racism and inequality and it can no longer be ignored. This professional sports movement is providing a level of social support for communities of color like never before.”  


Derek Marshall Jr. | senior first baseman, business marketing

“The boycott of professional sports events was a thoughtful and powerful act. But it was more than teams that decided not to play that day. It was a message to our country that this isn’t a problem that we will put aside and be naive to because the playoffs are on. We don’t deserve to sit at home and enjoy these sporting events when what’s happening in the inner cities around the U.S. is becoming a weekly occurrence. It’s up to us as a society to look ourselves in the mirror and demand change, and that can only happen once everyone puts their personal agendas to rest and realize that we are trying to preserve human lives. That’s when there will be some real progress.”  

Photos and quotes compiled by staff writer Christian Moya.

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