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Groz: Sports responds in a big way to social upheaval in America

Top-ranked tennis player Naomi Osaka decided not to play Thursday. (AP)

After spending decades being criticized for not being socially active, sports has responded in a big way to the social upheaval going on in the country.

Danny O’Neil: Athletes didn’t want to be our diversion on Wednesday

It’s hard to find a time where athletes felt it necessary to make a statement by not playing. In fact, there are very few examples in team sports because you have to get everyone on board, so it was really an electrifying 36 hours started by the Detroit Lions walking out of practice and including postponements or strikes in the NBA playoffs, WNBA, MLS and several MLB games (including the Mariners).

Those teams will all likely go back to playing as I said it is very difficult to get a team on board. When Muhammad Ali protested the Vietnam War, he was a lone warrior. He didn’t ask anyone else to stop fighting. Likewise, when Curt Flood sacrificed his career protesting baseball’s reserve clause, he went it alone.

If you’re wondering what they are or why they are doing this, it may have been best summed up by another lone warrior who got little attention Wednesday night. Unless you’re a big fan, you may have never heard of Naomi Osaka. She is a two-time Grand Slam champion and the current top-ranked player in the Women’s Tennis Association, and she announced that she would not play Thursday in the semifinals of the 2020 Southern & Western Open tennis tournament on Thursday. Her reasoning?

“Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis,” she said.

Osaka’s decision prompted the WTA (and ATP) to suspend all of Thursday’s matches, with play resuming Friday, including Osaka’s semifinals match.

With team sports coming back, she right now is the prominent lone warrior. That takes guts, and she has one new fan for sure.

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