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Celtics guard Jaylen Brown. Screenshot: Jaylen Brown/Instagram

There was a time when a months-long sports absence would have silenced athletes, leaving them without a platform to reach fans or make their voices heard.

Why it matters: But now that athletes boast massive social media followings and no longer need live game broadcasts or media outlets to reach millions, they're speaking out en masse amid protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people — delivering messages of frustration and unity, despite their leagues not currently operating.

  • Leagues and teams have shared statements of their own, but the raw messages from athletes defined the weekend in sports.

What they're saying: Hundreds of sports figures and organizations spoke out this weekend. Here are a select few:

  • Michael Jordan, who has been criticized in the past for not taking stands on social issues, released a statement that began with: "I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry."
  • The NFL issued a statement offering condolences to Floyd's family, but the statement drew criticism given the league's treatment of Colin Kaepernick. "Save the bulls--t," replied Texans WR Kenny Stills.
  • NBA players like Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (pictured above), Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, 76ers forward Tobias Harris, Timberwolves center Karl Anthony-Towns and Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. participated in protests around the country.
  • Dolphins coach Brian Flores in a statement: "I lead a group of young men who have the potential to make a real impact in this world. My message to them and anyone else who wants to listen is that honesty, transparency, and empathy go a long way in bringing people together and making change."
  • Serena Williams shared a powerful video of a young black girl speaking out against racism. "I can't find the words to say or express how sad I feel," wrote Williams. "[B]ut she found them for me. She found them for so many of us."
  • Adam Silver, in a league memo obtained by USA Today: "Just as we are fighting a pandemic, which is impacting communities and people of color more than anyone else, we are being reminded that there are wounds in our country that have never healed."
  • Mets 1B Pete Alonso on Instagram: "I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against because the color of my skin. To anyone who faces this type of discrimination ... I will always stand with you."
  • ESPN analyst Jalen Rose gave a two-minute address on his morning show, starting with the simple but profound: "I wish America loved black people as much as they love black culture."
  • Bengals QB Joe Burrow on Twitter: "The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn't politics. This is human rights."
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an essay for the L.A. Times: "Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you're choking on it — until you let the sun in."

Go deeper

Sep 1, 2020 - Sports

Nick Saban and Alabama players organize march against police brutality

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Alabama football coach Nick Saban marched on Monday against social injustices and police brutality with dozens of football players along his side through Alabama University.

The big picture: Sports teams and leagues are taking a bigger stand this year than they ever have in previous years. The police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. prompted NBA players to boycott games for the first time.

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.