Strike and boycott were among our top searches on August 27th, 2020, after the Milwaukee Bucks, followed by a number of other professional sports teams, refused to play their scheduled game, in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
The Milwaukee Bucks started the chain when they went on strike and decided not to take the floor for their afternoon playoff game against Orlando. By the end of the night, 14 games across four U.S. leagues were postponed — all three apiece in the NBA and WNBA, three in MLB and five in MLS.
— Michael Rand, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 27 Aug. 2020
Making their strongest statement yet in the fight against racial injustice, players from six NBA teams decided not to play postseason games on Wednesday in a boycott that quickly reverberated across other professional leagues.
— Brian Mahoney and Tim Reynolds, Associated Press, 27 Aug. 2020
There appears to be confusion as to whether these events should be described as a strike or a boycott. This confusion may be explained by the fact that the athletes' actions do not perfectly describe the definition of either word. The definition of the relevant verb sense of strike is “to stop work in order to force an employer to comply with demands”; the athletes are stopping work, but they are making demands of someone other than their employers.
Boycott, as a verb, is defined as “to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a person, a store, an organization, etc.) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions.” The athletes are expressing disapproval, but they are doing it by withholding their labor, which makes it feel like a combination of striking and boycotting. There is a noun sense of strike that comes close to matching: “a temporary stoppage of activities in protest against an act or condition.” Or you can simply think of it as strike-adjacent.
Trend Watch is a data-driven report on words people are looking up at much higher search rates than normal. While most trends can be traced back to the news or popular culture, our focus is on the lookup data rather than the events themselves.