As civil unrest in the U.S. continues after another videotaped police shooting of a black man, the NBA and MLB have taken action in a powerful way, with teams deciding to boycott games. STORY UPDATED AT 7:25 p.m. ET
NBA Teams Boycott Games Amid Unrest
The Milwaukee Bucks team started a cascade of game boycotts across both NBA and MLB leagues, refusing to take the court for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Orlando Magic, in response to the police shooting of a black man in Kenosha, Wisc.
About an hour after the scheduled tip-off for the Bucks-Magic passed and players were seen leaving the basketball arena inside their Orlando bubble, the NBA announced that all three games scheduled for Wednesday were postponed, and Thursday’s games are also in danger of boycott.
Later in the day, the Milwaukee Brewers, taking their cues from the Bucks, boycotted their game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Seattle Mariners, with the most African-American players on its roster of any MLB team, informed the San Diego Padres they would also be boycotting Wednesday’s game.
The WNBA also cancelled its slate of games Wednesday.
The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder teams were already considering a boycott of their NBA Game 5, while the Lakers and Trail Blazers were also expected to boycott before the postponement, especially after the particularly emotional tweet posted by LeBron James, demanding societal change.
On Tuesday, the Toronto Raptors were contemplating a boycott of Game 1 of Round 2 against the Boston Celtics after the police shooting that took place in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This further terrible act of violence deteriorates the social justice that sports leagues have been looking for in the past three months, and athletes in all sports are getting fed up.
The Bucks Call It Quits
As the NBA and basketball fans were all set to see the Bucks take on the Magic today, there was something obviously missing from the court. The Magic were there, warming up as they try to stay alive in the playoffs, but the entire Bucks side was missing.
Just before the tip-off should have taken place, the Magic left the court, as well, followed by the officiating crew. Within minutes, the announcement was made. The Bucks were officially boycotting the game.
The Raptors’ Plan To Ride The Bench
The Raptors had a team meeting before Tuesday’s practice to discuss how they could eventually react to the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man, by police officers. There is growing disappointment among all players in the NBA, as well as all sports. As a way to protest, the Raptors thought about not playing against the Celtics in the first game of the second-round postseason series tomorrow.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said after Tuesday’s practice, “We knew coming here or not coming here was not going to stop anything, but I think ultimately playing or not playing puts pressure on somebody.” The NBA doesn’t have the political or social power to stop these brutal shootings and deaths, but at least it can influence a little bit as a sports league.
VanVleet added, “So, for example, this happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, if I’m correct? Would it be nice if, in a perfect world, we all say we’re not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks — that’s going to trickle down. If he steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney’s office, and state’s attorney, and governors, and politicians there to make real change and get some justice.” In fact, if everybody joins in protest, maybe something could change. Hard pressure on political authorities might bring some positive results.
A Country Divided
Blake, who is black, was shot by police on Sunday when he tried to get in the driver’s side of his car. The police officers were there in response to a domestic disturbance, and the group of officers couldn’t figure out how to control the situation without their guns. Blake’s father said on Tuesday that his son was shot seven times, which means that the police wanted to kill him. Sadly, Ben Crump, Blake’s attorney, stated his client is paralyzed and it would take a miracle for him to fully recover. Most likely, the injuries he suffered will result in a lifetime disability.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his team had a team gathering on Tuesday, just like the Raptors. At this point, nobody had said they intended to boycott their NBA games, and he could see the impression Blake’s shooting had had on the team. Stevens is aware that the most affected about this horrendous event is Blake’s family and stated, “Obviously our thoughts go to Jacob Blake and his family. He added, “And, obviously, that video was horrifying. That video was awful. And to think of three kids being in that car is like … that just makes you shaken, right? It’s ridiculous. … We’ve talked about it as a team and just how we feel. We haven’t talked about it enough, but obviously everybody is [shaken].”
LA Lakers coach Frank Vogel spoke to his team about the shooting, and he pointed out how disheartening and abusive the attack against Blake had been for all of them. He explained, “It’s difficult to digest and go play a game. But it’s OK to align our goals here, with regard to, we’re here to compete for a championship but the further we advance in the playoffs, the further our platform to speak up on this grows.” What matters here is that the NBA is using its influence to protest and denounce the abusive power of some police officers and look for mechanisms so situations like this don’t happen again.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The NBA teams that boycott can be fined quite heavily by the league, but that would not be a move accepted well, even by teams that don’t choose to boycott (if there are any). The players feel that social and racial justice is more important than the sport at this point, and are doing what they can – anywhere they can – to make sure their message is heard.