Denver’s professional sports teams did not bow, but stood united the past week.
They chose not to play ball. They didn’t just stick to sports It was a poignant and proud time in Colorado sports history.
All Coloradans (except Detroit transplants) were enraptured when the Avalanche won the state’s first major-league championship in 1996, and Broncos fanatics repeatedly have been euphoric when the football franchise has reached eight Super Bowls (the first in the 1977 season) and prevailed in three, especially XXXII. Baseball loyalists were ecstatic when the expansion club ascended to its World Series in 2007, and Nuggets admirers, disappointed that the team never has won an NBA title (although still slightly possible this year), certainly were excited when it became the first No. 8 playoff seed to knock off a top-seeded opponent in 1994. And soccer enthusiasts were exhilarated when the Rapids won the MLS Cup in 2010.
Yet, sports fans in the Centennial State have just experienced an astonishing historic occurrence.
In deference and reference to racial strife in Wisconsin and the country, games of four of the franchises were not played, and the players on the Broncos opted not to hold a practice. Sports wasn’t shut down because of the coronavirus, but, rather, as the result of another police shooting of a Black man.
Undoubtedly, there are many people hereabouts who disagree with the decisions because they wanted to see games involving the Avs, the Nuggets, the Rockies and the Rapids, and receive reports about the Broncos’ workout, but, primarily, because of their political beliefs and/or racial issue opinions.
Curiously enough, though, in regard to the Denver/Colorado teams’ resolute actions, I didn’t receive one negative email, tweet, Facebook post, Instagram response, phone call or personal contact from millions who see, read or listen to the various forms of mainstream and social media platforms I’m involved with, which is stunning.
The majority of sports followers must have supported the players’ and teams’ emotional motivations, reactions and actions, or don’t have opinions, or don’t care to express them.
Following the Kenosha shooting the past week, the basketball and hockey teams in the bubbles in Orlando, Edmonton and Toronto, and baseball teams all over the United States and NFL teams in 32 training camps began processing the police, protesters and public safety problems.
The Milwaukee Bucks were the first team to protest by not playing Wednesday night, just as Bill Russell and several other Boston Celtics protested discrimination by sitting out a game in 1961.
The Rapids’ game in Dallas also was postponed that evening, but the Avalanche played, and defeated, the Dallas Stars in Game 3 their second round playoff series. On Thursday afternoon the Nuggets-Jazz and Rockies-Diamondbacks games were called off. After an early morning conference at Dove Valley, the Broncos’ practice was canceled. Then, Friday, the NHL shut down, and the Avs-Stars game was pushed back.
The franchises are administered by Stan and Josh Kroenke with the Nuggets, the Avalanche and the Rapids, Dick Monfort with the Rockies and the three Broncos’ trustees (with Joe Ellis as CEO). Ellis attended the meeting with the players and the coaches, but didn’t speak publicly. The Kroenkes and Monfort apparently didn’t meet with their players, but obviously approved the players’ and the leagues’ verdict not to have games. Shortstop Trevor Story was a prominent voice in the Rox assessment to support Black player Matt Kemp; a strong group of leaders emerged in the Broncos’ locker room; and the Nuggets, with vocal coach Michael Malone, were unified in their judgment not to play. The NHL responded to a request from the Hockey Diversity Alliance, formed by minority players earlier this season, and paused their playoffs.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Real Salt Lake team gave an unreal rant about his players and employees not playing a game. He has been suspended by his own franchise.
On Saturday the NBA, the NHL, MLB and the MLS were back on schedule. The Rockies played at home against the Padres, and the Rapids were on the road vs. Sporting Kansas City.
The Broncos conducted an intrasquad scrimmage at the stadium Saturday afternoon. And the Avalanche and the Nuggets resume their series with the Stars and the Jazz on Sunday.
The full-day trifecta of Denver-based teams also includes the Rox-Padres. And the Broncos are only two weeks away.