NBA, WNBA, MLB Players Strike on Fourth Anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s Anthem Protest Shows How Things Have Changed

Nike / Colin Kaepernick

There were supposed to be three NBA playoff games on Wednesday night but none of them were actually played. It was widely reported that the players were boycotting because of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, yet another unarmed Black man, but players can’t actually boycott, only fans can. What happened on Wednesday day night was a strike. Technically it was a wildcat strike because the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement doesn’t allow players to strike like this.

What’s interesting and not as widely reported is Wednesday was four years to the day since Colin Kaepernick started the protest that lead to him being unofficially blackballed by the NFL by sitting during the national anthem. Kaepernick changed from sitting to kneeling a week later after discussing the protest with Green Beret Nate Boyer, who told Kaepernick kneeling alongside his teammates would get his point across while still being respectful to the armed forces.

Let’s think about how much has changed since one player kneeling was a scandal to today where one player not kneeling is newsworthy. I know you’re probably trying to avoid politics, especially with the horrifying realization that on January 21st, 2021 either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be president, but politics is everywhere now. Everyone is stuck at home and they’re using that time to go on social media and watch cable news, the two things most likely to entrench people in political views and make them obsess over it.

But we’re also in a political moment where it’s impossible to just put your head in the sand and ignore it because it’s all around us. We’re seeing the level of police violence against the black community every day and the protests against it haven’t stopped. You should take a second to reflect and decide how you want to respond to this moment.

Me, I think Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had the quote that best sums up the current moment in time. “S**t doesn’t change. And it’s just the fact of the matter. Politicians really don’t give a f**k about us. All they care about is their own agenda. This is just the way it is and it’s upsetting. I’m sorry to use that language and go off. It’s upsetting.”

The Lakers and the Clippers are pushing to end the NBA season entirely right now, without a championship. Maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you’re angry. Most NBA players are Black, think about how they feel when they see yet another unarmed black murdered by police and people crawling out of the woodwork to justify it and then turn around and demand they entertain them without speaking up for themselves or their communities. These athletes have pretty big platforms and make a lot of money but they don’t actually have a lot of political power; refusing to play would hurt the bottom line of large companies like Disney, who owns ESPN and ABC and is looking to sports to make up the revenue that they would normally be making from parks and movies, and maybe, just maybe that would force them to take action and maybe politicians would actually listen to them.

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