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Cleveland's Pro Sports Teams Create Alliance To Address Social Injustices

Updated: 5:33 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020

Professional sports became a bigger arena for fighting racism and social injustice in 2020 and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and Browns are joining the fight.

The trio is creating a sports alliance to address social injustices in Northeast Ohio, the three teams announced Thursday morning in joint press release. The alliance will focus on improving the relationship between law enforcement and citizens, encouraging voter turnout and increasing equal opportunities for quality education in Cleveland.

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to make a lasting impact on society and the Cavaliers are committed to help bring about change,” said Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman.

Altman, along with other front office executives and head coaches, will jointly lead the alliance and players for the three teams involved. The three teams will put their fan base access, social media and other platforms to work coordinating activities and creating calls to action for specific initiatives.

“While the circumstances that highlighted the need for this partnership are disheartening, Tito [Indians Manager Terry Francona], Mike [Chernoff, the Indians’ general manager] and I are excited by the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and diverse group of leaders to identify opportunities to be a positive force for change,” said Cleveland Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti.

The alliance will begin its work by focusing on voter education and registration ahead of the 2020 election and eventually move to include issues such as educational and economic inequities, Indians Director of Communications and Player Relations Court Berry-Tripp told ideastream Thursday afternoon.

“It’s an effort to continue that dialogue and to kind of dig deep,” Berry-Tripp said. “Even though everyone’s kind of exhausted, this stuff is super important to the community that supports us.”

Some activities such as team fundraisers already aim to address disparities in the region, Berry-Tripp said, such as the Indians’ annual give-a-thon. The alliance will build on that work, he said, providing members of all three teams and staffs with a chance to give back to the community and to connect with causes that important to them.

“We see ourselves as stewards of the community and season after season, people of Northeast Ohio support all three teams in Cleveland,” Berry-Tripp said. “This is one of those moments where we need to go above and beyond and step up to support everybody in our community.”

The Cleveland alliance announcement comes one day after what could be considered the biggest day of the 2020 NBA season –  a day no basketball was played.

Three NBA playoff games were scheduled for Wednesday, but all six teams boycotted the matches in protest of the police shooting Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man in Kenosha, Wisc. Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer. Milwaukee Bucks players, a team that plays less than an hour from Kenosha, kicked off the boycotts.

“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold our self to that standard and in this moment we are demanding the same from lawmakers and law enforcement,” said Bucks point guard George Hill, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.

Wednesday night wasn’t the first time this season NBA games came to a sudden halt.

After the coronavirus delayed professional sports in March, the NBA picked things back up in July in what has been referred to as the ‘NBA Bubble’ at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla. The Bubble was created to be a COVID-19-free world for teams to finish the season while complying with COVID-19 health requirements.

The Cavs were not invited to the NBA Bubble because they were not in contention for a playoff spot. While Cavs players therefore couldn’t boycott any games, that didn’t stop them from responding to the boycott. Center Tristan Thompson and forward Kevin Love, two of the Cavs most-experienced and longest-tenured players tweeted about the protest.

NBA players met in the bubble Wednesday night and again Thursday to discuss when, if ever, playoff games should resume.

Shams Charania, with the national online sports site The Athletic, reported that Akron native and former Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, said in one of the meetings that he wanted team owners to step up for the cause.

Earlier this month, James said continuing the season after the pandemic hit gave the players a platform to demand social justice.

“It’s given us the opportunity to every single day speak about, feel passion about  whatever is going on in our personal lives, whatever is going on in society, us trying

to make a change, being dynamic, being heard and using this platform,” James said  in an Aug. 4 press conference.

The NBA players ultimately decided to continue with the NBA postseason, and games are expected to continue later this week.

ideastream’s Taylor Haggerty contributed to this report.

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