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Wisconsin athletes lead the way as social justice activists

From demands in May to action on Wednesday, The Milwaukee Bucks shocked the nation when they opted to not play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic and instead focus their time and resources on the shooting of Jacob Blake and Kenosha.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) celebrates the team's win over the Orlando Magic with guard George Hill (3) and center Robin Lopez (42) in an NBA basketball first round playoff game, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) celebrates the team's win over the Orlando Magic with guard George Hill (3) and center Robin Lopez (42) in an NBA basketball first round playoff game, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)(Ashley Landis | AP)
Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 8:17 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - From demands in May to action on Wednesday, The Milwaukee Bucks shocked the nation when they opted to not play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic and instead focus their time and resources on the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

“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.” Bucks guard, George Hill read off from a pre-written statement on Wednesday after the Bucks officially protested their playoff game against Orlando.

“We hold ourselves to that standard and in this moment, we are demanding the same from lawmakers and law enforcement. We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable.”

In wake of Jacob Blake being shot in the back by Kenosha police officer, Rusten Sheskey, Hill, on behalf of the Bucks entire organization demanded Wisconsin state legislature to reconvene and address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.

Democratic governor, Tony Evers did call for a special session on Monday to pass a package of bills on policing policies but the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature took no action and instead gaveled in and out in 30 seconds. State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said no Republicans came to the chambers Monday, including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

This movement by the Bucks halted sports across all major sports as NFL teams cancelled practice, the WNBA postponed their playoff games as well, along with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer games either postponing or holding protests too.

It became a worldwide showcase of a role athletes have always held as activists but is now under a bigger microscope than ever before.

“They become activists because they become concerned with the way our country is going or with the way people are being harmed or treated or the way people like them are being treated.” said Jason Kido Lopez who’s an expert in Activism in Sports and has been a professor at UW-Madison for the last five years studying Race, Ethnicity and Media.

“Something every sort of human and something every citizen could do. The difference is they’re this concerned human being that also has this incredible platform.”

With that significant platform comes higher criticism for speaking out from the game they play, even though it’s from the life they live.

“I’m one of those guys. I’m an African American guy, coming from a rough place and that person can be me. That can be my uncle, my brother, my cousin my friends. Some of my AAU kids in my organization, and that matters the most.” said George Hill after the Bucks 118-104 victory over the Magic on Saturday.

By then, the NBA had already announced league arenas will be used as voting for November’s election. Change in real-time sparked by the Bucks.

This comes as a direct result of the relationship NBA players have with people in power, the people that own those teams.

“They’re having debates within the athletes but within the people that own the teams and lead the leagues. What can we do beyond speaking out.” Lopez added.

This was is an example of an overlap of two different aspects of life that have always thought to be isolated from one another, politics and sports.

“Sports have always been political.” said Lopez.

“You hear very often that sports is sort of like this ’a-political space’ But there’s always been a political strive to sports because it’s a part of culture and culture is political.”

This has led to Mark Murphy, President and CEO of the Green Bay Packers speaking as the first NFL owner to take a stand for Black people in their fight with equality.

“The issues we’re facing, they’re not political issues, they’re societal issues. They’re issues affecting basic human rights.” Murphy said over a video released by the Packers Saturday night.

“How could we celebrate the achievements of our black players, past and present, without acknowledging, supporting and advocating for their basic rights as American citizens?”

Murphy also announce that the Packers will convert their Tailgate Village to a voting site in November while also making a $250,000 social justice impact grant as well.

From Wednesday to Saturday just in the state of Wisconsin athletes spoke up, and their leagues and owners stood with them.

All to make change, as George Hill put it, for a better world.

“It really woke the world up and let them know that we’re serious. We need change. We need more love in the world and try to make it a better place.”

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