North American pro athletes tried to shift the spotlight from the sporting arena to social justice reform Thursday as several games were postponed in an attempt to provide time for reflection on recent developments and continue the fight against racial injustice and inequality.
The moves come after the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, about 65 kilometres south of Milwaukee.
The NBA got things started Thursday by postponing its slate of playoff games for a second day, including the second-round opener between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics.
Other men’s leagues followed suit in the late afternoon.
The NHL postponed two playoff games on Thursday and another pair on Friday in Toronto and Edmonton after the Hockey Diversity Alliance submitted a formal request to the league to postpone Thursday’s games.
The Vancouver Canucks, the lone Canadian team left in the post-season, were scheduled to play the Vegas Golden Knights in Edmonton on Thursday.
NHL players requested the postponements and the NHL supported the decision, the league and the NHL Players’ Association said in a joint statement.
Minutes after the NHL’s announcement, the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox announced in a joint statement that their Thursday game in Buffalo, N.Y., was postponed.
“The continued police brutality and social inequity demand immediate attention and focus from all of us — not only Black Americans and Canadians,” the teams said in a statement.
“We fully respect the decision of our players to bring further awareness to the systemic racism that contributes to police violence against Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in our communities. We look forward to getting back on the field, and using our strongest platform, our game, to amplify our message demanding meaningful change.”
Major League Soccer had the day off but media availabilities with Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact ahead of their Friday night game at Saputo Stadium were indefinitely postponed.
The tennis schedule was postponed for the day at the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., where Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., has reached the semifinals at the ATP Tour event.
“There (are) many people that are not being treated fairly, are being disrespected, having to live in fear, a lot of things that I have never had to experience,” Raonic said late Wednesday night. “It’s very unfortunate, very sad. I’m hoping that there is a change, and I’m hoping that the actions that do take course over the next days, weeks, months, years — this isn’t going to change in a day — do create a change, a systematic change that creates an equal opportunity for everybody.”
The Milwaukee Bucks were the first team to decline to play Wednesday afternoon, one of three NBA games that were postponed that day.
Some games were postponed in MLB, MLS and the WNBA while one NHL game was preceded by a ‘moment of reflection.’ All three NHL games went ahead as scheduled.
Executive vice president Mike Bass said the NBA hoped to resume play Friday or Saturday.
The WNBA also postponed all its games on Thursday for the second day in a row.