Many sports fans will always remember the day that the NBA cancelled its season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and sports effectively stopped. It was a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it was significant because it was one of the first changes in our day-to-day lives to suggest that this virus was here to stay.
Yet, this past week, sports stopped again albeit for a completely different reason. On Wednesday, Aug. 26, the Milwaukee Bucks did not play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
Other NBA teams quickly followed suit and eventually, teams in other professional leagues responded, including the WNBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the NFL.
The Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Green Back Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers and Washington Football Team all did not practice Thursday in response to the shooting.
Washington was the only NFC East team to cancel practice on Thursday.
Today we canceled football activity for our players and staff to have dialogue on Social Injustice and reflect on the shooting of Jacob Blake. pic.twitter.com/MSRBAJekgL— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) August 27, 2020
The NFL did not start the wave of boycotts this past week, but the timing coincided with a movement that did begin in football: the kneeling of Colin Kaepernick.
August 26, the day the Bucks boycotted their playoff game, marked the fourth-year anniversary of Kaepernick’s decision to kneel. He had been sitting during the anthem previously, but August 26 was the day San Francisco beat writer Jennifer Lee Chan captured the historic photo of Kaepernick kneeling on the sideline.
Though the Washington Football team has had a tumultuous offseason at best (more on that later), they were one of nine NFL teams to participate in a movement that was once so unpopular four years ago.
Players shared their experiences. It was highly emotional. More then many thought it would be. And while Coach already has the respect of the team, it’s on a different level now. He is a clear leader and there for his guys. @WashingtonNFL— Julie Donaldson (@juliedonaldson_) August 27, 2020
As our own Ed Valentine wrote earlier this week, there is no longer a divide between sports and social justice issues. The once off-the-field problems have become just as important as what happens on the field. The pandemic already changed the nature of sports but this summer, four years after Kaepernick first kneeled, will also be remembered as a defining moment for athletes to find and use their voice.
Washington Football Team
This weekly notebook has chronicled the seemingly never-ending off-the-field drama surrounding the Washington Football Team this past offseason. Last week, the cancer diagnosis of the team’s head coach Ron Rivera dominated the headlines.
This week though, is different.
On July 16, The Washington Post released a report detailing the sexual assault allegations of 15 female former employees and two female reporters. The article followed news that longtime team broadcaster Larry Michael and former assistant director of pro personnel Alex Santos had left the team - both of whom were implicated in the Post’s story.
But then this past Wednesday, the Post published another story that some may have missed given the boycotts around sports that day. Twenty-five new women came forward to tell the Post that they experienced sexual harassment while working for the Washington Football team. The allegations include male bosses, colleagues and players commenting on their bodies and clothing, using sexual innuendos in workplace settings and making unwanted advances.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the piece involves former Washington Football Team cheerleaders. A video chronicled the the team’s official 2008 swimsuit calendar shoot, but what the cheerleaders didn’t know is that another video intended for private use would also be produced using the same footage. The 10-minute unofficial video featured moments when nipples were inadvertently exposed as women shifted positions.
These outtakes make up what Larry Michael deemed the “the good bits.” A former member of Michael’s staff said that he was present when Michael told staffers to make the video for team owner Dan Snyder.
Unlike in the first Post story, Snyder was directly implicated this time. And not only was he implicated, but he appeared to be at the center of it all. He released a statement following the report.
Statement from Dan Snyder in response to the allegations in today’s Washington Post: pic.twitter.com/vuvfUAO4q0— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 26, 2020
I’ve read the statement numerous times now and have yet to find an apology. And not only does Snyder fail to apologize, he also calls into to question the credibility of The Washington Post.
Commissioner Roger Goodell followed up with a statement of his own, condemning the behavior revealed in the article. Initially, Snyder had hired an outside law firm to investigate the claims into the first Post story. Now, Goodell is stepping in to lead an independent investigation.
This team has made history so many times this offseason, sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst. These recent allegations, which brings the total to 42 women, will not be soon forgotten.
The Eagles announced officially this past week that fans will not be allowed at Lincoln Financial Field until further notice.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia confirmed on Thursday that hosting fans at Lincoln Financial Field will not be permitted until further notice.— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 27, 2020
This leaves Jerry Jones’ Cowboys as the only remaining team in the division planning to host fans in the 2020 season.
In other news, the injury bug hit the Eagles this week as starting left tackle Andre Dillard is expected to miss the entire 2020 NFL season after suffering a biceps injury during Thursday’s practice.
Our colleagues at Bleeding Green Nation described how the injury looked in practice.
Dillard held his hand/arm in pain after going up against Josh Sweat in 1-on-1. Dillard was squatting and kneeling for a bit off to the side as trainers examined him. Dillard left the field and did not return to practice. Concerning that he’s been banged up throughout camp. He previously left practice early on Sunday. During a recent BGN Radio podcast, my co-host Jimmy Kempski also said Dillard was spotted on crutches at one point before camp started. So ... he might be dealing with more than one injury? [UPDATE: Derrick Gunn notes that Dillard suffered a biceps injury in addition to a shoulder strain he was dealing with.]
The injury weakens an already vulnerable offensive line in Philly as Brandon Brooks suffered a season-ending injury back in June.
After securing a big free agent signing in Everson Griffen two weeks ago, the Cowboys are still on the lookout for fresh talent. Most recently, their attention has shifted to veteran safety Earl Thomas who was released by the Baltimore Ravens and is still a free agent.
On Tuesday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Cowboys had no interest in Thomas and Jerry Jones outright denied that Rapoport knew anything during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
Initially, it seemed liked Dallas would not waste any time in signing Thomas as the two parties have had a mutual flirtation for years. Perhaps new head coach Mike McCarthy is responsible for the team’s patient approach or maybe Dallas is wondering why the Ravens did not re-sign Thomas in the first place.
Either way, another potential big free agent signing to keep an eye on in Dallas.