On Wednesday, all NBA playoff games were postponed as players decided not to play in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Brewers joined the strike in choosing not to play, with other teams later joining in. The Detroit Lions canceled practice as well as a show of support.
The strike took place exactly four years to the day that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was seen sitting out the national anthem, prior to a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in 2016. The coincidental timing has shone a light on the growth of the protest, which spread slowly after Kaepernick’s initial demonstrations but has now shut down an entire sport.
As CBS News noted, Kaepernick’s protests of police brutality against Black people have played an important role in the movement today.
“Kaepernick received a lot of negative attention, for sitting, and later kneeling, for the national anthem, but continued to protest for his message to bring awareness and end to the injustices that occur based on race.”
Kaepernick initially faced a strong backlash, and many supporters believe he was blackballed by NFL owners for sparking the movement, as he never played for another NFL team after leaving the 49ers. However, players today have become increasingly vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for wider police reform. Many NBA and NFL players took part in nationwide demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the NBA returned from its coronavirus hiatus with messages of social justice on jerseys and the Black Lives Matter slogan on courts.
Many athletes have referenced Kaepernick when taking part in demonstrations, while the league itself has changed course. As CNN reported, commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that he wished the league had “listened earlier” to the message the 49ers quarterback was trying to deliver.
On Wednesday, as the player strike grew from the original decision by the Milwaukee Bucks to include other basketball teams and the city’s baseball team, many took note of the timing and the connection to Kaepernick’s first demonstration.
Aug. 26, 2016: Colin Kaepernick sits for the anthem.
Aug. 26, 2020: NBA players boycott.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) August 26, 2020
Others noted that the current events and the league-wide strike in the NBA appear to have vindicated Kaepernick and his movement.
“Stand on the right side of history or history will expose you later,” tweeted filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome Bass, in a post that can be viewed here.
“That’s what happening rn with everyone who tried to undermine Kaepernick & the athlete protests prior to now,” she added.