The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans will kick off the NFL season in exactly two weeks in prime time in what will probably be one of the most watched sporting events all year.
Following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, setting off a tidal wave of support and similar action throughout the American sports landscape. The NBA postponed the two other games scheduled for Wednesday between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are reportedly discussing striking and not playing Game 1 of their second round series on Thursday.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds unanimously decided not to play on Wednesday, same as the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. The WNBA postponed its scheduled games and MLS pushed back five of its six scheduled matches, though the soccer outfit didn’t seem too crazy about the idea. The NHL continued as scheduled.
But those leagues are small potatoes ratings wise to the mighty National Football League, where roughly 70% of the players are Black. The Super Bowl champion Chiefs tweeted out a quote from head coach Andy Reid imploring everyone to join hands and come together during this time.
That’s all well and good, but there have to be other NFL players out there like Kansas City’s Tyrann Mathieu, who’s tired of what’s going on out there.
Now the NFL players don’t have guaranteed contracts, but they have a larger and more visible platform than the NBA, MLB or any other American sports league. Last year’s season opener between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears had 22 million viewers, dwarfing any other telecast from another sport. Would football players be bold enough to band together and boycott/strike on opening weekend?
It has to be on players’ minds as they prepare for Week 1 of the season, especially with no preseason games this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Is it likely that this happens? Surely not. But as the NBA and MLB acts, all eyes will soon be on professional football to see how its predominantly Black player base responds.