How the BLM Movement has Affected Professional Sports

Tate Sheehy

How the BLM Movement has Affected Professional Sports

By Tate Sheehy 24′

Something that the Black Lives Matter movement has had a huge impact on is professional sports. We have seen this recently throughout the years. For example in 2014, after the death of Eric Garner who’s last words were, “I can’t breathe.”, NBA players wore pre-game shirts that said “I can’t breathe.” Due to the large black demographic in many major sports leagues, racism in America has been something that has been at the epicenter of sports. The Black Lives Matter movement dates back to 2013, but has been even more relevant after George Floyd was tragically killed in the street by a police officer May 25 after being accused of fraud. Floyd was detained and despite being peaceful and not resisting, Floyd was still suffocated even after telling the officers that he could not breathe.

Since that tragic day, the Black Lives Matter movement has been one of the most prominent topics. It has become something that is talked about daily and much reform has resulted from peaceful protests. For example, in the wake of the death of Jacob Blake who was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police officers, on Aug. 26, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat. The actions of the Milwaukee Bucks sparked a range of sports leagues to postpone their games as well. Every team scheduled to play that day in the National Basketball Association (NBA) boycotted their games and other prominent American leagues followed such as the MLB, NHL, MLS and WNBA as well as individuals including American tennis star Naomi Osaka who postponed her US Open semifinal match. The NBA players who sparked this boycott stood up for what they believed was right, even if it meant sacrificing salary, as these boycotts were not union approved.

The NBA and WNBA have been at the forefront of this issue and have been the most proactive sports organizations regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. When their seasons returned in July, they gave players the choice to put social justice messages on the back of their jerseys. They ranged from “Say Her Name” to “Education Reform.” The NBA has also put “Black Lives Matter”in large black font on the courts as well and most players have been kneeling during the national anthem in regard to police brutality.

NASCAR has banned the confederate flag and has had certain racers such as Bubba Wallace, one of the few black Nascar racers continued to be very involved with the racial injustice issues in America. He has done things like giving his racecar a Black Lives Matter paint scheme, according to CNN. Additionally, he wore a t-shirt with “I can’t breathe” on the front, according to the New York Times.

In contrast, there are leagues like the NFL which has done the bare minimum for Black Lives Matter. Despite linking arms and kneeling during the national anthem, players, coaches and officials still received boos at the opening night game, Texans at Chiefs. Shannon Sharpe, former NFL tight end and host of Undisputed, a sports talk show on Fox Sports, tweeted, “No flag involved. No one kneeled. They all linked arms and they still booed them. SMH.”.

When asked, “How do you think the professional sports leagues handled the BLM movement and was there a league that seemed to handle it best?”, Dylan Graff 24’ stated, “I think professional sports leagues generally handled the BLM movement very well. For me, a standout was the NBA because of their use of social justice message jerseys and off the court BLM apparel.”

Obviously racial injustices have been more relevant than ever in this day and age throughout America, and it is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently. It seems clear that sports have been at the forefront of addressing this issue. Despite some issues, the impact sports have had on bringing attention to this issue has been immeasurable.