Decades before Colin Kaepernick took a knee, athletes protested. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised one fist in the air during medal ceremonies at the 1968 games. Muhammad Ali used his fists to build a platform commonly used for activism. What transpired Wednesday, however, is different.
“Many athletes have done it but to have a league do it? This is the first time I’ve seen a league and many other leagues do it,” said Scott Burrell, a former UConn player who spent eight seasons in the NBA.
Burrell said he appreciates the solidarity and unification he saw Wednesday as the NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer all postponed games to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, a Black man, shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday in front of his children.
“When someone gets shot in the back, point-blank range, seven times you’re outraged,” said Burrell. “You’re disgusted and you’re like this is another human being. How does this happen?”
Burrell isn’t the only former Husky with professional ties to react. Donyell Marshall, who played 15 NBA seasons and now coaches the Central Connecticut State University team, texted NBC Connecticut this statement.
“I'm extremely frustrated in this moment of another killing of an unarmed Black man. I am incredibly proud of the NBA fraternity and I am proud to stand with them,” said Marshall.
Current WNBA player and UConn alum Renee Montgomery sent a statement that read in part: “Think about the pressure that's going to apply on the local government. The players are fed up,” said Montgomery.
Wednesday’s sports postponements come after months of demonstrations, protesting the shooting of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
“When this happens after you saw the George Floyd situation, you’re like did anybody learn anything? Are we moving forward? Are we progressing? And it looks like no,” said Burrell.
Burrell, who now coaches the Southern Connecticut University basketball team, would like to see what transpired across the sports landscape this week, bring about change.
“Hopefully we will get this moving in the right path and people’s lives will be looked upon equally,” he said.
The protests are continuing. Leagues that protested Wednesday continue to postpone games while the NHL has also joined the movement.