Right-wing media lash out as professional athletes strike for racial justice

On August 23, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, were recorded shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, multiple times in the back at point-blank range. This incident followed the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Rayshard Brooks, and countless other Black Americans. 

The shooting sparked national outrage and an uprising in Kenosha. On August 25, the third night of protests in the city, a vigilante gunman shot three protesters -- killing two and injuring one. The following day, professional basketball teams led by the Milwaukee Bucks began striking in support of the movement to end police brutality. Other professional sports teams and players are following suit, with strikes expanding to include players in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League, and tennis

Players from the WNBA, which has long served as an industry leader in public activism, wore shirts spelling out Blake’s name and took a knee at center court as games were postponed. The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard were reportedly particularly vocal in pushing for the NBA to halt the playoffs, with James tweeting last night, “WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT.” Now, the NBA strike and others appear poised to continue through at least the weekend. 

Although right-wing media allege the strike is ineffective, players from the Bucks have already met with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to discuss measures for accountability and reform. Still, right-wing media figures have reacted by ridiculing the sports and athletes and attacking the NBA as both irrelevant and hypocritical in an effort to denounce the strike.

Attacking LeBron James for supporting a strike and speaking out

  • Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren called LeBron James “sick” for “aiding and abetting lawless thugs”:
  • Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis dismissed the strike and argued James was “just trying to outwoke the rest of the NBA” as a “negotiation ploy”:
  • Newsmax political correspondent and QAnon-supporting former congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine criticized NBA players for striking without giving up their pay:
  • Conservative radio host Joe Pagliarulo attacked the NBA strike, saying, “How are the Milwaukee Bucks or the NBA part of the solution whatsoever?” He also suggested James was lying when he talked about being scared as a Black person in America:

Joe Pagliarulo criticizes NBA strike

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Citation From the August 26, 2020, edition of Compass Media Networks' The Joe Pags Show

  • Right-wing talk radio host Michael Berry said Blake was “not a victim” and mocked a recent comment by Clippers coach Doc Rivers that he misattributed to James. Rivers, who is Black, had said in a press conference, “We keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back.” Berry said in response, “Stop trying to kill cops. That’s a weird love language”:

Michael Berry criticizes LeBron James

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Citation From the August 26, 2020, edition of iHeartRadio's The Michael Berry Show

  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist and talk radio host Wayne Allyn Root called striking athletes “ignorant fools,” naming James specifically:

Attacking the NBA as irrelevant, ineffective, or a “national joke” for taking action

  • Fox News' Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner acknowledged that the players have a “platform” that they've used “for decades" to “try to make change in greater society." But she questioned its effectiveness and suggested they also focus on “Black-on-Black crime and rioting” and “how we can move together as a nation, as all lives matter, Black Lives Matter, so on and so forth":
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Citation From the August 27, 2020, edition of Fox News' Outnumbered

  • Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Will Cain criticized the athletes for taking action without being “certain” of the facts of Blake’s shooting and suggested that striking was “leading the sports world to self destruct”:
  • The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro attempted to mock the relevance of the NBA: 
  • Turning Point USA founder and right-wing media mainstay Charlie Kirk called the NBA a “national joke and disgrace”:
  • Right-wing talk show host Steve Deace criticized the work stoppage and said it would must affect “the SJWs in sports media” supporting the actions:
  • Washington Free Beacon executive editor Brent Scher called reporting on the NBA player strike “a joke”:
  • Right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich declared that the “NBA is committing suicide” and suggested men take up different hobbies instead of watching “this NBA poison”:
  • Right-wing talk radio host Kevin Jackson called the striking players “BLM frauds”:
  • YouTuber Tim Pool, a frequent amplifier of far-right content and misinformation, mocked NBA players who were reportedly “emotionally traumatized by the latest police-involved shooting”:
  • Radio host Wayne Dupree criticized players’ tactics, saying, “Not playing a sports game is supposed to fix things?” and suggesting they ought to donate their “entire yearly salary to fixing up our communities” instead:

Attacking the NBA for so-called hypocrisy on China and violence against police officers

  • Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis posted a series of tweets arguing NBA players should have focused their “boycott” on China:
  • Right-wing comedian Tim Young tweeted about the NBA’s lack of “#priorities” and suggested they focus on Nike and Chinese slave labor instead:
  • Human Events publisher Will Chamberlain responded to LeBron James’ tweet:
  • Newsmax’s John Cardillo complained that the athletes had not “offered so much as a moment of silence” for police officers who have been killed: