It started with empty chairs.
The Orlando Magic came out to warm up for their N.B.A. playoff game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, but the Bucks weren’t there. Soon the Magic players were gone, too. Then the N.B.A. postponed games involving four more teams amid rumblings that at least some of their players planned to walk out, too.
Within hours, the job action spread to other sports: The Milwaukee Brewers decided not to play, and so did the Washington Mystics, leading to the postponement of three W.N.B.A. games. Ten Major League Soccer teams and at least one tennis star, Naomi Osaka, also chose to sit out.
Sports were just too much to bear on Wednesday, the athletes said. Not, they said, after another Black man, Jacob Blake, had been shot by the police, this time in Wisconsin. Not after they had spent weeks — months, really — trying to bring attention to the issue of racial injustice, to the fears that many of them feel every day.
“We demand change,” LeBron James wrote on Twitter, his raw emotion pouring out in capital letters.
With no one playing, they made the sports world stop. And listen.