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5 NBA games, other US sporting events called off as players protest shooting of Black man

Grand Slam champ Naomi Osaka was among the sportspersons protesting the shooting of Jacob Blake who was shot in the back 7 times by police in Wisconsin.

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New Delhi: Members of the US sporting fraternity have stood up in protest against the shooting of a 33-year-old Black man named Jacob Blake by a policeman in Wisconsin Sunday.

Five National Basketball Association (NBA) games have been postponed while three Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), five Major League Soccer (MLS) and three Major League Baseball (MLB) games have been called off.

Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has also withdrawn from the Western and Southern Opens.

Blake was shot seven times in the back and is now partially paralysed. The shooting comes at a time the memory of George Floyd‘s murder in Minneapolis on 25 May and the nationwide protests that followed is still fresh in people’s minds.

The protests began Wednesday when NBA team Milwaukee Bucks decided to pull out of their playoff game against team Orlando Magic.

“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard and in this moment we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement … We are calling for justice of Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable,” a statement by Milwaukee Bucks read.

The team’s owners have also spoken out in support of the players.

While such an action is banned by the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have essentially breached their contract, the association was forced to postpone five games after players from other teams also stood in solidarity with the Bucks.

The Bucks were also backed by the NBA community, with its senior vice president Alex Lasry tweeting, “Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change.”

This is not all. When the season had resumed in July after a Covid-19-induced pause, NBA players were seen sporting t-shirts with ‘Black Lives Matter’ written on them and had knelt down in protest when the national anthem was played on the courts.

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‘Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman’

Grand Slam champion Osaka also joined the protest by announcing her withdrawal from the Western and Southern Open.

The fourth-seeded player said, “I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority White sport, I consider that a step in the right direction.”

She added, “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hands of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman.”

Former tennis player Billie Jean King came out in support of Osaka and said, “A brave & impactful move by ⁦⁦@naomiosaka⁩, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world. She was to play in the semis tomorrow. Athletes using platforms for good means so much. Don’t remain silent..”

US tennis player Sloane Stephens also tweeted in support of Osaka. “Say it louder! Proud of you.”

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) also backed the players’ protest saying, “As a sport, tennis is collectively taking a stance against racial inequality and social injustice that once again has been thrust to the forefront in the United States. The USTA, ATP Tour, and WTA have decided to recognise this moment in time by pausing tournament play at the Western & Southern Open on Thursday, Aug. 27.”

The New York Times’ sports edition Thursday gave a peak into what its Friday front page will look like.

Also read: China drags football into spat with UK, state TV demotes EPL match to secondary channel


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