Bryan Woolston/Associated Press
The University of Kentucky football team became the latest group of athletes to stage a walkout on Thursday as demonstrations continue across all levels of sports following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin by police officer Rusten Sheskey.
According to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, the Wildcats collectively agreed to leave practice in protest of systemic racism and police brutality. Blake was shot seven times in the back on Sunday while entering his car. The 29-year-old is expected to survive, however, he is paralyzed from the waist down and it’s unknown if the condition is permanent.
The move by UK players comes after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for their playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. The protest led to the NBA postponing the playoffs, then the WNBA followed, as well as MLS, and a number of MLB teams opted not to take the field in a wildcat strike.
During the time they would have been playing, the Bucks took action, calling Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor and attorney general to demand action be taken in the case.
The Wildcats athletic department confirmed the team left the field and announced players are discussing potential opportunities to use their influence to effect change.
The SEC is one of three Power Five conferences moving ahead with fall sports along with the ACC and Big 12. Both the Pac-12 and Big Ten opted to postpone fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Kentucky players were practicing and had the opportunity to walk out Thursday, four weeks before their season opener against Auburn on September 26.
Teams across the NFL have canceled practices in solidarity as well.
The Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and more all used scheduled time on the field to search for opportunities to effect change in their communities.
It’s unclear what the next steps will look like for teams like Kentucky. However, the important thing on Thursday seems to be that players stand together in protest.