Athletes speak out, boycott games in protest, but take risks doing so

Referees huddle on an empty court at game time of a scheduled game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic for Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

The major sports leagues canceled at least some games in protest of the police shooting of a Kenosha, Wisconsin, man, but experts said they speak out a personal risk, especially at a time when many fans just want them to “shut up and play.”

The NBA led the way, canceling games, followed by the WNBA, Major League Baseball, and even Major League Soccer. Some Ohio athletes are speaking out. Among them is Athens-native and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.

Burrow tweeted: “How can you hear the pain Black people are going through and dismiss it as nothing. How can you hear the pain and respond with anything other than ‘I stand with you.’”

Ohio State basketball player Seth Towns was vocal over the summer and got arrested at a protest in downtown Columbus. Towns tweeted, “It’s so hard for so many to accept that racism exists.”

Kathryn Plank of Otterbein University is with the school’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center. She said there is a risk in speaking out.

“We’ve seen the risk,” she said. “We’ve seen the way Colin Kaepernick was treated.”

Plank said while they run the risk of alienating fans and employers, they should be speaking out, especially to those who need to hear it.

“Unless we hear all of those stories, we don’t know the truth, and we are living within our own bubble,” she said.