Of course, Steelers fans want to get off to a 1-0 start against the New York Giants.
They don’t want it to happen this way, though.
On Thursday, New York Giants star running back Saquon Barkley said he and his teammates aren’t ruling out the possibility of boycotting games this upcoming season.
“I can’t really just go and speak on behalf of the whole league, but, for us, that is something that we’re going to talk about within our (social justice) groups, within our team,” Barkley said via ESPN.com.
Keep in mind, the Giants opener in Week 1 is on “Monday Night Football” (Sept. 14) against the Steelers.
Like players in the NBA did Wednesday, athletes in many sports have decided to skip practice or avoid playing in games this week as a sign of protest against police violence toward American minorities.
Athletes from many sports lent their voices toward the movement in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota. The latest round of outcry comes because a Wisconsin man named Jacob Blake was wounded after being shot in the back by police.
Barkley, the rest of the Giants and the entire NFLPA would be wise to absorb how things have played out for the NBA players before they commit to any such action prior to the NFL season opener.
Then, whatever decision the players adopt, they’d be wise to communicate it among themselves better than how their NBA peers did.
As we debated this summer regarding kneeling during the national anthem: Is a protest really a protest if those in charge sanction it?
Because, essentially, as a league, that’s what the NBA did. And it wasn’t hard for them to do. After all, it wasn’t the league itself that was the object of the protest. It merely had to deal with the consequences.
Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic. Shortly after the Bucks walked off the court, the Magic did, too. And teams in the later games refused to play as well.
So what did the NBA do? It just turned the whole day into a rainout. That’s it. Everything was postponed. Not canceled. Not forfeited. Just pushed back. Like there was a power outage or something.
And once the players decided to continue the rest of the playoffs on Thursday, how was the league negatively affected? An extra night or two of expense for the bubble hotel rooms for the Magic and a few other teams? I think commissioner Adam Silver can handle that tab.
The NBA players either needed to do a lot more — or a lot less.
They needed to collectively walk out of the bubble and cancel the playoffs entirely. Or they needed to let the Bucks’ actions speak on their own as the lone franchise to forfeit.
Not postpone. Forfeit. That would’ve spoken louder than a mild delay. In this rare case, I believe one team acting alone would have resonated more than all the teams acting collectively.
Milwaukee is in Wisconsin. The Bucks’ regional connection to this matter should mean something beyond the other teams.
Secondly, a forfeit impacts the series. A game worth of broadcast revenue. Gamblers. And, let’s face it, even if the other two games had taken place, the Bucks’ refusal to play still would’ve been the biggest story in the sports world.
Now the league just treated the whole day like an Etch A Sketch, wiped it clean, and will start over again.
If the Bucks decided to do what they did, they should’ve informed Orlando and the other teams in advance. The goal of making a meaningful impact through their protest could’ve been met, and logical talking points to that effect could’ve been echoed by the other teams. Because their surprise action put the Magic in an awful spot without time to prepare.
If the Magic players stayed on the court, they would’ve looked callous. If they had accepted a forfeit, they would’ve seemed petty. If the other teams didn’t follow suit, they’d appear uncaring.
The Bucks going on impulse didn’t seem to go over great with other players in the bubble and led to some split decision making about pulling the plug on the playoffs.
Sources: There was some frustration in meeting toward Bucks blindsiding on walk-out plan. Bucks’ George Hill admitted he first sparked conversation pregame to boycott contest, teammates supported.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
Sources: The Lakers and Clippers have voted to boycott the NBA season. Most other teams voted to continue. LeBron James has exited the meeting.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020
Therein lies the dilemma. What the Bucks did was sloppy.
But it caused a stir. It created waves. Within the players’ ranks and the league. That’s a protest.
I’d suggest homogenizing the response throughout the league and the other clubs while rebooting the postseason on Saturday dilutes that impact.
I know, I know. “It got people talking!”
OK. So, people weren’t talking about what happened in Wisconsin anyway? The story has gotten so much attention, media coverage of it dwarfed the presidential election and coronavirus long before the Bucks left the court Wednesday.
“Yeah, but all the other leagues stopped playing for a day, too!” Yup. And maybe in pre-covid-19 times, that would’ve meant more. But we’ve become numb to losing games at a moment’s notice, haven’t we?
And I’m not exactly sure what the NHL similarly canceling its games on Thursday will do to impact the prosecution of any of the officers in Kenosha. I’m not sure how the Indianapolis Colts refusing to practice will prevent an officer with a bad streak in another state from doing something wrong a month from now.
Walking out on the playoffs in Orlando? A week’s worth — or a year’s worth — of games in the NFL? Now you are hitting rich owners and network executives in the pocket. When people like that lose even more money — in already bad times — that’s when change happens.
I’d argue canceling — not postponing — a full week of NFL games would rattle cages a lot louder than scrubbing the rest of this NBA bubble.
If NFL players uniformly came out and said, “We aren’t playing Week 1, and we aren’t rescheduling,” the owners would co-sign. Publicly, at least.
They’d have to. But they’d hate doing it.
Even with no fans in the stands, that’s a lot of lost television revenue and ratings spread over three days of games on opening weekend.
I’m not sure what punishing the NFL or NBA does to stop police abuse, but if that’s the path Barkley and other players feel must be taken, then do it.
But do it intelligently. And with meaning. And with planning. And with consequence and conviction.
This week, the NBA players made noise. I’d rather see the NFL players make news.
Actually, in a best-case scenario, what I’d rather see is everybody just playing. But 2020 has gotten so bad, I don’t think best-case scenarios even exist anymore.
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