“The league’s decision”?
What happened Wednesday night in sports will be taught in history books 50 years from now. Players on multiple teams in four different leagues engaging in wildcat strikes and refusing to play as a protest against racial inequality is a remarkable act of courage that won’t soon be forgotten.
What made the protests especially brave, especially on the part of the Bucks, who were first to sit out, is that they weren’t approved by management. The leagues know who is on the right side of history on this issue, and so they’ve been eager to sanction calls for equality and displays of unity. But the effectiveness of those actions is diluted by the fact that they’re approved by the people in charge. Wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts on the sidelines and putting messages on the backs of jerseys is all well and good, but the players realize that they need to convey a sense of urgency by taking more extreme measures, and so they did. The actions taken by the players are powerful precisely because they are risky. It’s not the same as wearing one of 29 league-approved slogans on the back of your jersey.
Make no mistake, this is a player-led movement. Though the leagues attempted to regain control of the situation by preemptively announcing postponements, the players are the ones who hold the power. Numerous NBA teams released statements supporting the postponement of the night’s playoff games, some less vague than others. No one screwed it up as badly as the Knicks, though.
“The league’s decision”? The decision was taken entirely out of the league’s hands. That statement completely erases the significance of the players’ actions. It attempts to frame the postponement of the night’s slate of games as another example of the NBA’s corporate-friendly brand of social justice. It denies that the players have agency here and that they have the power to force the league to do things it doesn’t want to do.
It’s not surprising that the Knicks, of all teams, would be the ones to botch the response. After all, this is the franchise that sat on its hands refusing to make even the simplest statement against racism after the killing of George Floyd, before finally saying something two weeks later.
No matter what the Knicks say, though, the public realizes that the players are the ones holding the cards. If LeBron doesn’t want to participate in the playoffs, then you don’t have any playoffs. A business is nothing without the people who make it what it is—and that’s not the bosses.
Four years later
Here’s an interesting coincidence about the protests rippling through the sports world:
I can’t quite decide how I feel about this. On the one hand, it’s incredibly frustrating that the lack of progress made to resolve the injustices Colin Kaepernick attempted to shed light on with his protest makes it necessary for athletes to continue to take drastic action.
But on the other, it’s amazing how far athlete activism has progressed in those four years. The simple (but still courageous) gesture from Kaepernick to take a knee drove news cycles for months. Sitting out a game—a playoff game—is a far bolder step that would have been inconceivable when Kaepernick started protesting in the preseason. Imagine seeing Kaepernick kneeling by himself on the sideline and being told that four years later numerous entire teams across four leagues would sit out games in support of his message. It’s remarkable how things have changed for the better in that regard.
The best of SI
Chris Mannix reports from inside the NBA bubble on what went down after players decided to sit out. ... Alex Hampl was in Milwaukee and captured the reactions of Bucks fans to the strike.
Around the sports world
Naomi Osaka pulled out of the Western & Southern Open in protest. ... Evander Kane and Matt Dumba called out the NHL for its inadequate response to the movement happening in other sports.
Incredible stuff from Kenny Smith and Chris Webber
The WNBA has always been at the forefront of these conversations
Dominic Smith broke down in tears addressing the media
Bucks sideline reporter Zora Stephenson stepped up in the moment
The seven holes in the back of the shirts got to me
A moment of silence in an empty arena is an empty gesture
Disappointing for the rest of the Cubs to not stand with Heyward
A naked man in Australia was caught on security cameras showering in a car wash. ... The CEO of TikTok, who was hired on June 1, is already leaving the company.
“Unsurvivable” is not a word you want to see in a weather forecast. Stay safe, Gulf Coast.
He must have rescued years worth of lost balls
A good song
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.