NBA Shelves Games after Bucks Boycott, Other Sports Follow Suit
The National Basketball Association (NBA) delayed all three playoff games on Wednesday. This happened after the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted Game five of their series against the Orlando Magic to show resistance against racial injustice, instigating similar moves across different sports.
The move by the Wisconsin-based team came after the police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the city of Kenosha, also in Wisconsin, on Sunday.
Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer along with the Women’s NBA also postponed games. Two-times tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka participated in the protests by pulling out of a tournament after reaching the semi-finals. The Bucks players expressed in a statement that they were unable to focus on basketball because of the events in Kenosha.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin we have seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha and the additional shooting of protesters,” they said.
“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
In addition to the Bucks-Magic game, the NBA stated that the Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers games would be postponed and rescheduled.
“WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT,” tweeted LeBron James, the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama appreciated the Bucks in a Twitter post that consisted of a video message of an emotional Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers talking about Blake.
“I commend the players on the @Bucks for standing up for what they believe in, coaches like @DocRivers, and the @NBA and @WNBA for setting an example. It’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values,” wrote Obama.
Major League Baseball rescheduled games in Milwaukee, San Diego, and San Francisco that were scheduled for Wednesday while Major League Soccer decided to postpone the five remaining games on its list.
“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight,” MLB said in a statement.
The WNBA also delayed three games scheduled for Wednesday. Players on the reigning WNBA champion Washington Mystics wore T-shirts that exhibited seven bloody bullet holes on their backs. World number 10 tennis player Osaka pulled back from a U.S. Open tune-up tournament after she reached the semi-finals.
“As a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis,” Osaka said.
“Black Lives Matter”
Kenosha has been shocked by civil unrest and violence since Sunday, when police shot Blake, 29, in the back at close range in an incident recorded on video. Blake is paralyzed and is being treated for his injuries. On Wednesday, A 17-year-old identified as Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with homicide in connection with gunfire that killed two people and wounded a third during the third night of protests on Tuesday.
The Magic, who trail behind by 3-1 in the best-of-seven, first-round series, left the court when it was evident that the Bucks were not going to play. Beyonce’s song “Freedom” was played in the empty Orlando arena as the clock counting down to the start of the game ran out.
The Bucks ownership expressed that they were not aware ahead of time of what the players were planning but supported them.
“The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on racial injustices that are happening in front of us,” co-owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan said in a statement.
Athletes from around the world have stood united behind anti-racism protests ignited by the death of George Floyd in May. He was a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis.
Since the NBA resumed its COVID-19 hit season in a bubble-like campus at Disney World in Florida, courts have the slogans “Black Lives Matter” painted on them and many players are wearing jerseys with social justice messages.