Local black leaders support pro-athletes decision to boycott games

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Seven shots fired by an officer into the back of Jacob Blake Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin once again sparked calls for change.

The country saw frustrations over inequality collide with the sports industry, Wednesday, as the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

Soon after, other sports followed suit as baseball, hockey, tennis, and soccer players also refused to play, forcing the postponement of games.

Marvin Hightower, president of the NAACP Peoria branch, said they stand in solidarity with the athletes choosing to boycott.

“This has been going on for too long, too often and too many times,” Hightower said. “Since George Floyd to Breonna Taylor to where we are today. So I’m grateful that they are taking a stand and being engaged in what’s happening.”

The movement has also garnered the support of federal leaders such as Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

“I admire the people who are protesting in a way that is getting attention in a positive way,” Bustos said.

This power play by some of the country’s most revered athletes is sending a message in support of black organizations like Young Revolution and Black Lives Matters Blono that have been leading the movement for social justice at the local level for months.

“Everyone who’s watching can also see and they can shift their focus away from the sports and shift their attention to the racial injustices,” Sincere Williams, executive member of Young Revolution, said.

“I think athletes should use their position to protest and stand up for things that are not right,” Olivia Butts, a leader with Black Lives Matter Blono, said. “A lot of professional athletes are Black and they experience racism as well.”

Over the summer, Central Illinois saw waves of protests and rallies following the death of George Floyd. Both Williams and Butts said that might not necessarily repeat immediately.

“As of right now, we don’t have any actions or rallies planned,” Butts said. “I think if the need arises we would plan one. We released new demands on June 19th and so that’s kind of what we’ve been working towards over the last couple of months.”

“Young Revolution has a lot of other things in the works right now,” Williams said. “We’re all away at school so we can’t really bite off more than we can chew right now.”

Williams is encouraging voters to carry a message of change to the polls while Hightower is calling for people to get engaged and fill out the census.

The NBA issued a statement Thursday announcing its hoping to resume playoff games Friday or Saturday.

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