Wednesday correctly has been called a historic day in sports after 14 games across four different leagues were postponed by athletes protesting and showing solidarity in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha, Wis.
Welcome to Thursday: History, Part II. Things don’t figure to get any less interesting today. Indeed, even by the morning there were already indications that big news would continue to unfold. Here is a glance at some topics relevant to various leagues as we try to sort out what happens next in sports:
*The NBA, which started the domino effect Wednesday when the Bucks walked out on their scheduled playoff game against the Magic, seems to have the most at stake and the potential for a prolonged shutdown.
The league’s board of governors and players reportedly are meeting separately Thursday morning to sort out their next steps. Of particular note: The Lakers and Clippers, two of the favorites to win the NBA title and homes to stars LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, reportedly voted Wednesday to end the season while other teams want to keep going.
But talks continued Thursday, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that players voted to resume the playoffs at some point. There will be no games Thursday, though, he reported.
*Several NFL teams have already called off or postponed practices Thursday, including the Jets, Colts, Washington, Packers, Bears and Jaguars. In a sign of cross-rivalry solidarity, former Vikings great Cris Carter tweeted in support of Green Bay postponing its practice.
While this is just practice, it is notable in a condensed NFL offseason that features zero preseason games. With the season set to open two weeks from tonight, it will be interesting to see how this story plays out in the most popular and richest sports league in the U.S.
College football news is starting to trickle out as well, with Boston College already calling off Thursday practice for social justice reasons.
*The WNBA presented a unified voice Wednesday as players decided as a group not to play any of the three scheduled games. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she woke up Wednesday morning thinking they might not be playing because of rumblings that the NBA might not play — and the likelihood that the WNBA would follow their lead.
In that context, it would be hard to imagine the WNBA playing Thursday (three scheduled games) with the NBA reportedly not playing. To Reeve, though, the next 24 hours or the prospect of when the league returns to playing are of far less consequence than the big picture of why players aren’t playing in the first place. The next scheduled Lynx game is 6 p.m. Friday against Atlanta.
“You know what they don’t care about? Just playing basketball. That’s first and foremost,” Reeve said about players in a Wednesday evening video call with the media. “I can tell you that those who might suggest playing basketball is something we should focus on or the fear of losing TV money and our owners losing money and therefore our league being in jeopardy … that’s not going to work. They’re focused on what can we do to help our communities, to help our families, so that we can live safely and live the same as white people. That’s what their focus is on. If we play basketball … you can bet that our mind isn’t 100% on basketball.”
*MLB was an interesting and somewhat disjointed test case. Of the 15 scheduled games, three were postponed after players involved in those games took a stand. Other games carried on despite individual players opting out of playing.
The Twins-Cleveland game felt like business as usual, which was strange in and of itself.
It sounds as though players plan to return to action Thursday, contrary to what is expected to happen in other leagues. Writes Jeff Passan: “Even if the teams return as expected after a one-day absence, the consequences of Aug. 26 won’t go away anytime soon.”
*Major League Soccer saw five of its six matches postponed, with the earliest one between Nashville and Orlando carrying on before the others were scrapped after a majority of players and teams didn’t want to play as a sign of protest.
MLS doesn’t have any matches scheduled Thursday and has just one Friday before a busy eight-match slate Saturday — including a Minnesota United match against Dallas. It’s unclear at this point if there will be further postponements. What is clear is that players want to make sure they are in control of the narrative regarding why this is happening.
*The NHL barely did anything Wednesday as the playoff bubble games went on. The inaction is noticed by players — including the Wild’s Matt Dumba — and the league is getting criticism for it. Perhaps that will spur a different league response Thursday?
“NHL is always last to the party on these topics,” Dumba told Sportsnet 650 Wednesday evening, per Yahoo.com. “It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance and I’m sure for other guys across the league. But if no one stands up and does anything, then it’s the same thing. That silence. You’re just outside, looking in on actually being leaders and evoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”
Dumba is on the Hockey Diversity Alliance. So is the Sharks’ Evander Kane. Around noon Thursday, Kane tweeted that the alliance wants the NHL to postpone games Thursday.
Players are being told to be ready for that very thing, according to one prominent Canadian hockey journalist:
Dumba and Kane’s strong comments are a good reminder of the unifying theme across sports: young athletes are unafraid to speak their minds and back up their words with actions.
“This generation of players is unafraid,” Reeve said.