UPDATE: Following a meeting Thursday morning, NBA players in the “bubble” outside Disney World decided to resume the playoffs, ESPN reports. However, Thursday’s games will be postponed, and while no restart date was announced, it is expected that players will return to the court Friday or Saturday.
NBA players decided to sit Wednesday’s playoff games to protest the the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee Bucks, the franchise located closest to Kenosha, was the first team to refuse to play, sitting out game 5 of their playoff series with the Orlando Magic. The team entered the Disney World-area arena for their Wednesday afternoon game against the Orlando Magic, as some players arrived wearing t-shirts that read “Protect Kids Not Guns.”
But the Bucks players never took the court for shoot-around prior to game time. The Magic, who did come out for shoot-around, headed back to their own locker room with four minutes before game time when it was clear Milwaukee players were not coming out for Game 5. Soon after, NBA reporters tweeted that the Bucks were discussing whether — and ultimately chose to — withhold their labor for the game, ESPN reports.
In a statement released later on Wednesdays, the Bucks players demanded accountability from the police officers who shot Blake and called on the Wisconsin state legislature to return to Madison to “address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.
“We’re tired of the killings and the injustice,” Bucks guard George Hill told The Undefeated.
“FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT,” LeBron James tweeted.
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020
Soon after the Bucks’ decision, NBA reporter Shams Charania tweeted that the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder would similarly sit out their Game 5 in solidarity. The Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers will also reportedly sit out their Game 5 Wednesday, effectively canceling all three games scheduled for Wednesday. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, who are scheduled to open their second-round playoff game Thursday, are also considering not playing, ESPN reported.
WNBA players also declined to play Wednesday, as did Major League Baseball players for the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners.
The NBA soon confirmed the decision:
The NBA and the NBPA today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled.
— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2020
Kenny Smith, a former player and popular TNT basketball analyst, walked off his show’s set in solidarity with the players on Wednesday.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) August 26, 2020
In the aftermath of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement, the NBA allowed players to sport social justice messages — “How Many More,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Their Names,” “I Can’t Breathe” “Equality” and more — on the back of players’ jersey, as well as placing permanent Black Lives Matter signage on the court.
Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen tweeted following the postponed game, “Bucks power. Black power. Nothing but respect for Milwaukee’s players and coaches.”
Following the Los Angeles Clippers’ Game 5 victory Tuesday, coach Doc Rivers, the son of a police officer, delivered an emotional speech to media that touched on the Jacob Blake shooting and the Republican National Convention’s fear-mongering.
“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers said (via ESPN). “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.”
Rivers continued, “The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.”
“It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
Doc Rivers delivers an emotional message on the police shooting of Jacob Blake. pic.twitter.com/A0T26OfsDG
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) August 26, 2020
Blake is reportedly in stable condition but paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot seven times in the back by a police officer; Blake was reportedly trying to break up a verbal altercation between two women when police arrived on the scene in Kenosha.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 26, 2020