The basketball stars of the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic knelt in the empty and semi-dark hall. They wore T-shirts with the motto of the global movement “Black Lives Matter” and were silent for a moment. Before the hockey game between Tampa Bay and Boston, there was a video calling for the fight against racism. The words “This is bigger than sports” shone on two giant screens – that’s bigger than sport.
After the unprecedented strikes and protests against racism and police violence, the top leagues in the USA resumed their gaming operations at the weekend – but normality is not only noticeable because of Corona. The subject of racism remains omnipresent. In particular, the basketball players of the NBA repeatedly point out the problems in American society. “It’s bigger than basketball,” said star player Giannis Antetokounmpo after his Bucks win against Orlando and the quarter-finals on Saturday. “There will be games where you might get 50 points, but you won’t remember them later. The way we felt this week will be remembered for the rest of our lives, ”he said.
The Bucks were the first professional team to strike a playoff game this week, triggering an unprecedented series of protests. Teams and players joined the women’s league WNBA, soccer (MLS), baseball (MLB) and, somewhat late, ice hockey (NHL). Football teams from the NFL didn’t train and even the tennis masters in New York didn’t play for a day. “That’s big. That’s strong, ”said Antetokounmpo. “Seeing other athletes from other leagues do the same thing is powerful and shows that we did the right thing.”
The Bucks had sat in the cabin for hours on Wednesday and, among other things, spoke on the phone with Jacob Blake’s family. The 29-year-old was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha a week ago. Milwaukee is less than an hour’s drive from the crime scene.
In the NBA there had been intense discussions since then whether the season should continue at all. After several meetings and when Lakers star LeBron James, among others, had accepted advice from former President Barack Obama, the basketball players decided to keep playing. In return, the team owners promised, among other things, that – where possible – the home arenas will be used as polling stations for the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd.
“I had doubts. But if you can come up with a plan that you feel is important in changing the landscape, then it’s clearer, “James told TNT after his success against the Portland Trail Blazers and moving into the Quarter-finals on Saturday. “Having the NBA arenas as polling stations for many communities is incredible, we want to continue that. We all know how important that is. ”But some NBA stars remain skeptical that something will change in the USA. “I’m not as confident as I’d like to be,” said Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics. Too often there have been empty promises for change.
The NHL joined the protest last Thursday with a day’s delay. The professionals justified this in an impressive press conference with the fact that they had been surprised by the developments and wanted to exchange ideas first. The National Hockey League, which is dominated by white professionals, also decided to interrupt the playoffs on Thursday and Friday. “It’s a much stronger message than anything a player or two could do alone on the ice,” said black pro Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights. Kevin Shattenkirk from the Tampa Bay Lightning said: “Every black player should feel safe in this league and have a voice.” Dpa / nd