Major sports leagues, teams, and individual players have all taken action on civil rights since the killing of George Floyd, continuing the legacy of athletes standing up against injustice.
Since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past May, major sports leagues, teams, and individual athletes have all taken a stand against ongoing racial injustices in the United States. Even so, their visibility comes in the face of ongoing criticism from President Trump and his allies. On Labor Day, Eric Trump was the latest to voice his anger that the Dallas Cowboys would be allowed to protest during the national anthem during the upcoming NFL season.
But this history of activism in sports is nothing new. Athletes have been fighting against racial injustice for decades, from Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ legendary fist-raising during their medals ceremony at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem against police brutality in 2016.
We’re taking a closer look at how the Black Lives Matter movement in sports has grown since May, with teams and athletes using their platform to speak out about racial injustice, police violence, and the importance of voting. Read on for a complete timeline of how players and teams have stepped up for justice since George Floyd’s death this year.
May 25, 2020
George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, is killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer.
May 27, 2020
After the video of Floyd’s murder goes viral, several prominent current and former athletes speak out, including Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Colin Kaepernick, Odell Beckham Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Lisa Leslie, and JJ Watt.
May 29, 2020
Former NBA star Stephen Jackson, who was a close friend of Floyd’s, leads a press conference in Minneapolis. “I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin,” Jackson said.
Athletes, including Bradley Beal, Diana Taurasi, Jayson Tatum, and Stephen Curry, lead and participate in multiple protests across the country.
May 30, 2020
The NFL releases a statement on behalf of the league. The statement excludes the words “racism” or “police brutality.
June 1, 2020
Reports say former world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather will pay for George Floyd’s funeral services.
Members of Liverpool FC in England take a knee around the center circle at Anfield Stadium in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya protests the killing of George Floyd by joining a Black Lives Matter rally outside the US Embassy in Auckland, New Zealand.
June 3, 2020
NHL Star Sidney Crosby joins several other NHL players in releasing a statement speaking out on the killing of George Floyd. “What happened to George Floyd cannot be ignored,” wrote Crosby.
June 4, 2020
Several NFL stars, including Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliot, Michael Thomas, Patrick Mahomes, and Saquon Barkley release a video demanding that the NFL condemn racism, listen to players, and grant them their right to peacefully protest.
June 5, 2020
The Jacksonville Jaguars become the first NFL team to officially organize a protest following the death of George Floyd.
June 6, 2020
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases a video condemning racism and the oppression of Black people. He admits that the NFL should have listened to players’ concerns earlier.
NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo joins teammates in speaking at protests in Milwaukee.
June 10, 2020
Lebron James launches “More Than A Vote” with several other athletes and celebrities. The organization is aimed at protecting Black people’s voting rights along with expanding voter accessibility.
NASCAR bans confederate flags at all races and events.
US Soccer repeals a policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem.
The Minnesota Twins and Vikings announce plans to make donations to various social-justice causes, including a $125,000 scholarship in George Floyd’s name.
June 11, 2020
NFL pledges to donate $250 million over a 10-year period to combat systemic racism.
June 12, 2020
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and other NBA players speak out against restarting the season due to nationwide civil unrest. “I’m willing to give up everything I have,” said Irving.
July 3rd, 2020
At the urging of both NBA and WNBA players, the NBA approves 29 different social-justice messages on jerseys ahead of the season restart in Orlando, Florida.
July 6, 2020
The WNBA announces they will center their season around the Black Lives Matter movement. The teams will wear special uniforms that display Breonna Taylor’s name and will wear warm-up shirts that display “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “Say Her Name” on the back to honor women who have died due to police violence. The WNBA statement says “Black Lives Matter” will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.
July 10, 2020
The WNBA’s Atlanta Dream releases a signed statement rejecting a letter from Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), a team co-owner, who expressed her opposition to league initiatives in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
July 13, 2020
After decades of protests and threats from major corporate sponsors like FedEx, Nike, and Pepsi, the Washington, D.C., NFL franchise retires the name Redskins.
July 21, 2020
The NBA unveils “Black Lives Matter” messaging on courts.
July 23, 2020
Several MLB teams kneel during the national anthem on baseball’s delayed opening day. The Washington Nationals paint BLM on their home field mound.
July 25, 2020
WNBA players release a video demanding the arrest of the police officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Aug. 23, 2020
Jacob Blake is shot and seriously injured after police officer Rusten Sheskey shoots him in the back seven times in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Aug. 24, 2020
Several NBA players speak about the shooting to the press after their playoff games.
Although the NFL season doesn’t kick off until Sept. 10, the Green Bay Packers hold a meeting to discuss what actions they can take following Blake’s shooting.
Aug. 25, 2020
The Toronto Raptors discuss a boycott of Game 1 of their second-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.
The Detroit Lions cancel their practice and address reporters as a team to deliver a unified message.
Aug. 26, 2020
The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic boycott their playoff game. All NBA teams scheduled to play that day follow suit. All three scheduled WNBA games are also delayed.
Three MLB games are postponed— the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres vs. Seattle Mariners, and LA Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants.
In soccer, five MLS matches are called off.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka withdraws from the Western & Southern Open to move the focus to the fight for racial equality. Several hours after Osaka’s statement, the tournament announced it was pausing play for a day.
Aug. 27, 2020
Several NFL teams postpone or cancel practices, with some using the time instead to discuss social change.
The NHL joins with other major leagues in showing solidarity by postponing playoff games.
After a second meeting between players and owners, NBA players decide to resume their playoff games and use the platform to speak out on social-justice issues.
Sept. 1, 2020
The NFL announced social-awareness initiatives for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. “End Racism” and “It Takes All Of Us” will be painted in end zones and players, coaches, and referees will be allowed to wear the names of victims of racism and police brutality on helmets and caps.
Sept. 4, 2020
In collaboration with Lebron James’ “More Than A Vote” initiative, 15 NBA arenas—along with several NFL, MLB, and NHL stadiums and arenas—announce that they will be converted into polling places.
Sept. 7, 2020
Eric Trump tweets “Football is officially dead” upon learning that the Dallas Cowboys would be given the “green light” to protest the national anthem during the upcoming NFL season.