Wednesday’s athlete-led rebellion demanding change in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake has forced franchise ownership and management across sports to respond.
What started with the Milwaukee Bucks refusing to take the floor for a playoff game led to the postponement of two days of NBA playoff games and much of the rest of the sports calendar through Thursday. It also prompted a spate of statements from team owners and leagues addressing the concerns of police brutality and racial injustice.
Some have been heartfelt. Others have felt forced and generic. And then there’s what the Baltimore Ravens published on Thursday.
Ravens make pointed demands, name names
The Ravens released a statement on Thursday demanding specific action while naming names. They named shooting victims Blake and Breonna Taylor in calling for justice, and they named Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with a demand to enact nationwide police reform.
“With yet another example of racial discrimination with the shooting of Jacob Blake, and the unlawful abuse of peaceful protestors, we MUST unify as a society. It is imperative that all people — regardless of race, religion, creed or belief — come together to say ‘Enough is enough!’
“This is bigger than sports. Racism is embedded in the fabric of our nation’s foundation and is a blemish on our country’s history. If we are to change course and make our world a better place, we must face this problem head-on and act now to enact positive change.
“It is time to accept accountability and acknowledge the ramifications of slavery and racial injustice.”
After the introduction, the statement goes on to make specific demands concerning Taylor and Blake. Police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Blake in the back multiple times on Sunday. The attack left the 29-year-old father of three paralyzed below the waist, according to his father.
Taylor was a 26-year-old aspiring nurse whom Louisville police killed when they barged into her home with a no-knock warrant on March 13.
‘Arrest and charge the police officers’
No charges have been brought in either case. The Ravens — like so many athletes across sports — joined the call for that to change. And they demanded that McConnell introduce legislation on the floor of the U.S. Senate enacting police reform.
“Though we cannot right all the wrongs of our country’s history, we can:
• Arrest and charge the police officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s killing and the shooting of Jacob Blake.
• Demand that Senator Mitch McConnell bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to the Senate floor for vote. End qualified immunity; require body cameras; ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants; hold police accountable in court; establish a framework to prohibit racial profiling at federal, state and local levels.
• Support state and federally mandated CALEA Accreditation and national standards of care in policing.
• Demand prison sentencing reform that is fair and equitable.
• Encourage every citizen to act with respect and compliance when engaging with the police. If you feel there has been an abuse of power, we encourage you to contact your police department’s internal affairs unit. (For Baltimore City, dial 410-396-2300).
“We will use our general platform to drive change now. Not just for our generation, but for the generations that follow, for our sons and daughters and for their children.”
Why this matters
Many have asked what the players can accomplish by sitting out games and using their platforms. Can their actions actually enact real change?
This is the start of what actual change could look like. Billionaire owners of sports franchises, like Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, possess real power and leverage in America thanks to their fortunes and prominent roles in their communities. They can get the ear and the attention of lawmakers and civic leaders.
If they truly start to align with athlete calls for justice, they might be able to enact change. It will take more than statements on social media. But it’s a start.
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