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Sports grind to a halt as athletes take a stand against an endless parade of injustice

Athletes continue to push for change in far more meaningful ways than those with the power to create it.

Orlando Magic v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Five Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

Today, athletes from across the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS chose not to play, cancelling playoff games and regular season games and sitting out in those games that did continue.

They chose not to because, to a man and a woman, they wanted to make a statement that Jacob Blake should not have been shot seven times in the back by the Kenosha, Wisconsin police department while his back was turned. They wanted to make a statement that the many ways in which Black people are mistreated in the country they call home, both by the police and by society itself, cannot simply be paid lip service to and not changed. They wanted to make a statement that making a statement is not enough, that putting Black Lives Matter on a court or slogans on the backs of jerseys is something that is well-intentioned and good but tends to fade quickly into the background of sports themselves. They wanted people to pay attention and to weigh their message, and they judged that the best way to accomplish that was to not play sports, one of the few things in American life still capable of bringing people together in a meaningful way.

It’s four years to the day from when Colin Kaepernick began kneeling on the sidelines of a 49ers game, something that would ultimately lead to him being effectively barred from the NFL for trying to deliver a message that hasn’t changed since 2016. There’s been an effort to grapple with Kaepernick’s legacy and message in the NFL—some of it honest, some of it deeply cynical—by the league itself, but nothing has really changed since then. Every police shooting of a Black man, unarmed or armed, is swiftly subject to the same “he’s actually a bad person and deserves it” hand-waving, whether it’s said that bluntly or not.

There has been no great reckoning with the idea that something must be deeply wrong when protests against police brutality and racial injustice have been happening for decades without meaningful headway. Athletes don’t have the power to solve inequality, but they can call attention to it in a way few others can, and they’re increasingly invested in doing just that.

This will come to the NFL, too, if nothing changes, which is to say it will come to the NFL too. Pete Carroll alluded to it on Wednesday, and after a spring and early summer where NFL players were outspoken about their desire for justice and change in the wake of George Floyd’s death, it’s a virtual lock that games will be postponed or cancelled unless owners, politicians, and others with the wealth and connections to re-shape the world choose to do so.

Tomorrow, we’re not going to post anything new. We’re not under any particular illusions that spending a day without fresh content from us is going to shake the foundation of your world, that you won’t catch up on everything on Friday, or that if you’re inclined to think we’re all a bunch of cowards who are kowtowing to some (extremely imaginary) pressure to be woke you’ll magically change your mind. We’re just hoping that you’ll either re-read Eric Robinson’s powerful essay on what it means to be Black in America in 2020 or take the day away from the site to consider why decades upon decades of blood, sweat and tears haven’t produced, and what needs to happen to make that happen, and that you’ll understand that this is our small way of showing our support for athletes doing far bigger and braver things.

We’d also ask, as longtime readers or fresh faces here at The Falcoholic, that you take a little time tomorrow to ask yourself what good you can do. We’re living in a country—hell, a world—where the need to do good collectively, to treat one another as genuine equals, and to not fall into the familiar traps of battling each other with our five favorite talking points on the Internet have never been more apparent. Change comes when the rich and powerful decide to make it happen or when the vast majority of people without those means band together to put their dollars, their time, their energy, and their voices behind that change.

As I’ve written here before, it costs many of us virtually nothing to pursue that kind of change with vigor, and a world where Black people (and yes, people of every race) don’t have to fear being shot by police or just mistreated because a great many people hate and fear them. There are plenty of ways to do the slow, painstaking, but vitally important work that entails, and if you don’t like the options being provided to you, seek out ones that you’re comfortable with or that are local enough to matter to you. Making this country into everything it’s supposed to be for everyone who lives here is well overdue, and a worthwhile aim for every single one of us.