Less than 24 hours after the Milwaukee Bucks set up a historic day in sports by striking before their Game 5 playoff against the Orlando Magic, leading to ripple effects across the MLB, WNBA, MLS and more, the professional teams in Cleveland announced an alliance that aims to address some of the issues at hand.
The Bucks’ demonstration was in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug. 23. In a statement, the team asked the Wisconsin state legislature to reconvene to take action after “months of inactivity.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns said their partnership will concentrate on “social injustice facing the city of Cleveland and all Northeast Ohio communities.” That will include working to “improve the relationship” between law enforcement and citizens, encourage non-partisan voting activities, and increase access to quality education.
Leaders from each team are involved, including Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff; Browns General Manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski; and Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, General Manager Mike Chernoff and manager Terry Francona.
“We understand the platform our organization has to make a positive impact on these important issues,” Berry said in an announcement. “When Coach Stefanski and I began discussing how we might be able to elevate and broaden that impact by expanding the dialogue to our counterparts in Cleveland, it quickly became apparent that partnering with the other teams in our city would help our region come together so we can collectively address the problems that we’ve all been working to help solve independently.”
The group says it will also eventually partner with community and civic leaders and minority organizations to “address issues impacting the individuals they represent.”
“The social and economic disparity in our community reveals some ugly truths, and Coach Bickerstaff and I are honored to be at the table to address these issues with such a prominent group of our peers,” Altman said. We never take for granted our place in the fabric of Cleveland and hopefully our coming together inspires others to join us.”
Via their ties to LeBron James, the Cavaliers have an indirect history of social justice efforts. During his most recent stint with the team, James founded the I Promise School — a public elementary school specifically aimed at at-risk children — and has contributed millions of dollars to educational costs for Akron students, including free tuition at the University of Akron.
James also led the effort for Cleveland players to wear shirts reading “I Can’t Breathe” before a 2014 game following the death of Eric Garner.
The new alliance says it is built around the community’s emotional connection to the Cavaliers, Browns and Indians.
“While the circumstances that highlighted the need for this partnership are disheartening, Tito, Mike 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,” Antonetti said. “There is a lot of work to do, and we believe that this partnership will serve to amplify our collective impact.”
The Indians’ involvement in the alliance comes as the team is facing criticism for its continued use of its nickname. The baseball team already discontinued the use of its culturally appropriative “Chief Wahoo” mascot after the 2018 season.
The Washington Football Team dropped its racist moniker towards Native Americans during the 2020 NFL offseason, after decades of reluctance and pushback.
In July, Francona was asked about the name issue, and said it was time for his team to “lead and not follow.”
“I’m of an age where I know just what we’ve always done isn’t appropriate all the time and being old enough to listen and try to learn even at an advanced age, is what we need to do, and we need to be sincere,‘” Francona said. “We need to live it.”