INDIANAPOLIS – The NBA and WNBA postponed Thursday night’s games in response to protests after a police officer shot Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
The Indianapolis Colts joined a growing list of NFL teams that canceled practice Thursday. The response from professional athletes comes after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to not take the floor for their playoff game on Wednesday.
In a tweet, the Indianapolis Colts said they canceled practice to “discuss and work toward making a lasting social impact and inspiring change in our communities.”
Antonio Williams, an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health, said he was not surprised by this move from the Colts. He has worked with several players on their branding.
“We have to do something that is about substance. And what the Colts have decided to do today is substantive,” Williams said. “They have their own media companies. They have their own social media platform in which they can have their voices heard and that is powerful.”
Indy Eleven captain Matt Watson used his platform to explain why he could not play Wednesday night.
Athletes participating in activism is nothing new. Ex-Pacer George Hill in June marched in downtown Indianapolis and encouraged Hoosiers to vote. In that same month, the Colts interrupted their virtual offseason to respond to the escalating protests sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbrey and others.
Rather than go about the business of holding team and positional meetings virtually, the team focused on racism and social injustice. Players used the occasion to share their experiences.
“Racism is vile, deplorable, detestable,’’ coach Frank Reich said at the time. “There is no form of it that is acceptable and in no way can it be justified. Our black community has borne the brunt of this injustice far too long.’’
Watson explained as a team captain he felt compelled to do something.
“I just felt paralyzed. I cannot go out no matter what. The game is not important, you know,” said Watson. “It just felt like this has to stop now and if we keep playing and putting on the t-shirts, nothing is going to change.”
Now athletes are using their positions of power to influence change outside the sports world.
“These athletes are also the endorsers and spokesman for some of the biggest companies in the world,” explained Williams. “Because of that, it is almost an obligation for them.”
The NBA hopes to resume playoff games on either Friday or Saturday. A video conference call will be held on Thursday afternoon between NBA players, team governors, along with representatives from the National Basketball Players Association and the league office and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chairman Michael Jordan. They will discuss the next steps.