SSN Commentary

The NBA Strike Is a Big Moment for Athlete Activism — And the Labor Movement in America

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Princeton University
University of Washington

Originally Published as "The NBA Strike Is a Big Moment for Athlete Activism — And the Labor Movement in America," Vox, September 4, 2020.

The sports world erupted in protest last week in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. On August 26, Milwaukee Bucks players announced just prior to game time that they would not participate in their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The rest of the NBA playoff teams soon joined in this wildcat strike.

Their actions reverberated. Tennis star Naomi Osaka voluntarily forfeited her semifinal match before the next day’s games in the Western & Southern Open the following day, and officials suspended play as a result. Some MLS, NHL, NFL, MLB, and WNBA teams also followed suit, with the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins, among others, leaving the field after a silent protest while placing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt over home plate. The NBA strike came to an end and playoffs resumed a couple days later after the league secured some concessions, including the use of several basketball arenas as voting locations and the formation of a league-wide social justice coalition.