Author Archives: Alexie Bruel

Black Lives Matter is painted in giant letters on the street

Social Justice in the Sport’s World

The Milwaukee Bucks held a walk-out on Aug. 26 refusing to play against the Orlando Magic, the first in NBA history after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man. The NBA concluded that the rest of the scheduled games that Wednesday night was to be canceled as well.

This boycott inspired many other sports teams to follow in their footsteps. Numerous athletes refused to participate in any scheduled games that Wednesday night, calling off games from the MLB, WNBA, and Major League Soccer.

Blake, an unarmed Black man, was shot eight times in the back by police officers as he tried to get into his car. Police officers were responding to a domestic call when they arrived on the scene. Blake has been left paralyzed following the incident, Blake’s father, Jacob Blake Sr., told the Chicago Sun-Times. Blake is currently out of the hospital, but is “in a spinal injury rehabilitation center in Chicago,” according to attorney Patrick Cafferty.

The stand taken by the Bucks echoed the frustration that many people, including players and coaches, across the country, feel with the lack of change. Previously, players took to kneeling during the National Anthem and wearing shirts promoting social justice messages. However, with little effect, the Bucks decided a more drastic approach was needed.

This time around, professional players took their most decisive stance against police brutality in wake of the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, WI. The Buck’s historic commitment of refusing to play Wednesday’s game sent shock waves throughout the sports world. This left many professional leagues scrambling to quickly postpone and reschedule games, according to USA Today.

The Bucks stayed in the locker room hours after the tip-off was supposed to start. The same night, the Bucks players offered a statement, “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

“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 ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement,” the statement continued.

The WNBA quickly followed suit, postponing their scheduled games as well. Both the NBA and WNBA have been very outspoken and at the frontline of protests against racism and police brutality. Especially within recent months, with the re-energized BLM movement after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

WNBA players dedicated their season to Breonna Taylor, and the Say Her Name Campaign- an effort to raise awareness for the persecution of Black female victims of police brutality. The players also wore Breonna Taylor’s name on their jerseys during opening weekend.

Before the boycott, both the NBA and WNBA league had taken an extended break because of the COVID pandemic. Many players questioned if continuing the season was necessary- amid our current racial climate.

Kyrie Irving, a point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, has been very vocal about systemic racism and police brutality throughout the season. He held a conference call with other NBA players, to figure out how to progress with the rest of the season, saying that “I’m willing to give up everything I have” for social reform, according to Complex.

Irving has been one of the most vocal players following George Floyd’s death. Months before the NBA was scheduled to resume, Irving worried that playing in Orlando would take away from the need to work on social justice reform. “I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving reportedly said during the conference call. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bulls–t. Something smells a little fishy.”

While other players backed Irving, LeBron James supported the NBA’s decision to continue the rest of the season. However, that all changed in the wake of Blake’s shooting. James led the Lakers, and their rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, in voting to cancel the rest of the season. Leaving soon after the vote, with the Lakers and Clippers following him out, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

James, a small forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, has often used his platform to openly speak out against systemic racism and social justice, especially within the past couple of months amid ongoing nationwide protests. James showed his support of Buck’s decision to boycott, tweeting “Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!”.

Following the Bucks’ decision to boycott, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association released a joint statement on Aug. 28, announcing that the playoffs would resume the following day. The statement also announced that both the league and its players will work together on several pledges to encourage voting access, fight against social injustice and racial inequality, and advocate for police reform, per ESPN.

“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community,” Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said in the statement.

The committee also announced that team owners will work with local officials to turn the league’s franchise owned arena properties into voting locations for the 2020 general election. Allowing citizens to vote in person during the COVID pandemic. There is also an effort to use those locations in other ways, as well as sites to register voters and receive ballots, reported by ESPN.

Golden Gate Bridge side by side comparison of wildfire smoke

Wildfires in the Bay Area

In the third week of August, the state of California experienced a massive lightning storm, which in turn led to an outbreak of more than 500 wildfires and more than 2 million acres burned. 

On Aug. 18, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency for the whole state of California. According to Newsom, the storm caused a surge of close to 12,000 strikes over 72 hours, creating about 560 wildfires. 

The SCU and LNU Lightning Complex fires are two of the larger fires that started because of the storm. As of Sept. 14, both fires have been at least 95% contained, burning over 765,000 acres combined, as reported by Cal Fire. Since the start of fires across the state, more than 2 million acres have already been burned. 

The SCU and LNU Lightning Complex fires are some of the largest wildfires in California state history. The SCU fire currently affects six counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara. While the LNU fire affects another five: Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo, and Solano. 

The SCU Lightning Complex fire started as multiple fires on Aug. 16, eventually merging into one large fire that’s been broken into two branches; Branch I and Branch II – making it the third-largest fire in state history. The same unusual lightning storm that sparked the SCU fire sparked the LNU fire just a day before, making it the fourth-largest fire. 

Cal Fire reports that at least five people have died in the LNU Complex fire, with three of the civilians from Napa and the other two from Solano county. Another five people have been injured in the fire, four of them are civilians. Fortunately, there aren’t any fatalities reported from the SCU blaze. However, another four civilians were injured, along with two firefighters.

Considering the number of acres burned, the property damage done by the SCU fires is lower than that of its smaller counterpart, the LNU Complex fire. As of Sept. 14, the SCU fire has destroyed 136 structures and damaged 26 structures, according to Cal Fire. However, the damage following the LNU fires is much bigger, with almost 1,500 buildings destroyed, and another 232 damaged. 

Andrew Rego, 21, a student in the fire program at Chabot, gives some insight into wildfires and the causes behind them. 

When asked why wildfires are so hard to contain, Rego explained that  “flammable debris, such as dry grass, and heavy winds will expand fires much easier and faster. Compared to a wetter climate, with little to no wind and minimal flammable objects, wildfires become much easier to contain.”

Rego claimed that there are many factors to take into consideration when a wildfire breaks out. One must look at wind patterns, how far the fire spreads out, and evacuation plans must be made for citizens and animals in preparation for the worst. 

On top of fires blazing across the state, COVID-19 has made it difficult for firefighters in training. According to Jeffrey Barton, the Fire Program Coordinator at South Bay Regional Public Safety Training, “with COVID and the numerous amounts of fires, training is not ranked higher than safety and preservation of life.”

South Bay Regional Public Safety Training, or The Academy, leads the way in providing high quality, cost-effective public safety training to approximately 2700 full-time equivalent students (FTEs) each year, including professionals from more than 70 city and county agencies, according to their website. 

“Prior to the fires, fire training was already restricted due to the state’s COVID response. Unless it is prescheduled virtual training, most face-to-face training was canceled,” Barton said in response to whether the fires affected training. Barton also added that the effect that COVID had on training was the most challenging thing they faced this year. 

Even without the addition of COVID, “training during wildfire season is impossible to coordinate” Many Cal-Fire agencies are already deployed and were unavailable for email or contact, according to Barton. 

By the start of Labor Day weekend, northern California had issued another air alert, for a recording-breaking third week in a row. This alert comes after another intense heatwave that hit California the weekend before. Higher temperatures could start new wildfires and increase harmful levels of smog and air quality. 

 Since the start of the fires, air quality has plummeted. As reported by USA Today, California’s air quality is worse than India’s; a country that contains more than 1 billion people. Major cities, if not all, are affected by the harmful air, already increasing the high risk of pulmonary disease due to COVID-19. 

As stated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index, on Aug. 31, one-third of the state was considered to have unhealthy air for all of the general public. These areas included in their assessment were the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, and Sacramento. Exposure to harmful air can lead to serious health complications. 

According to the CDC, symptoms caused by breathing in unhealthy air and wildfire smoke could be coughing, asthma attacks, wheezing, and trouble breathing. By limiting outdoor exercise and wearing an N95 mask, you can reduce smoke exposure and breathing in harmful air.