It started with the Milwaukee Bucks choosing to protest police violence by refusing to come out of their locker room and compete in a playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The team protested the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday. Other NBA teams quickly followed suit by refusing to play. The NBA postponed all three playoff games on the docket for Wednesday, while the players’ social action spilled over to other leagues including the WNBA, MLB, MLS, and pro tennis. The media initially dubbed it a boycott, but in reality, NBA players initiated a wildcat strike.
NBA players hosted an emotional meeting on Wednesday night inside the NBA bubble at Disney World of Sports to discuss further action.
Players will meet again on Thursday morning while the NBA convenes an emergency meeting of its board of Governors.
“Players cannot fight this battle by themselves,” wrote William C. Rhoden from The Undefeated. “If players are to turn their rage and frustration into action, they will need the muscle of the multibillionaires who own NBA teams and run the league. This is the only way.”
The status of Thursday’s three NBA playoff games is unknown, but it’s widely presumed that those games will be postponed as well.
Strike Begins with Milwaukee
The Blake shooting occurred approximately 35 miles from where the Bucks play their home games in Milwaukee. The top seed in the Eastern Conference refused to come out of the locker room for Game 5 of their first-round series against the #8 Orlando Magic. The Bucks were ahead 3-1 and needed one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“I mean, just sickening. It’s heartless,” said Bucks’ forward George Hill.
“This is why we have so many people outraged over the country,” added teammate Khris Middleton. “The man was shot seven times at point-blank range in the back. It doesn’t get any sicker than that.”
The Bucks decided that enough was enough.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve 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 protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” said the Bucks in an official statement. ““When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.”
One of the owners of Bucks, Alex Lasry, stood behind his players’ choice to protest.
“Some things are bigger than basketball,” tweeted Lasry. “The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change.”
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
NBA Social Action, Will Playoffs Continue?
Once word got out that the Bucks refused to step onto the court in protest, current and former players flocked to social media to voice their solidarity with their NBA brethren.
The tweet from LeBron James seemed to be the most incendiary. The LA Lakers were scheduled to play Game 5 of their series against the Portland Trail Blazers later that evening. But once LeBron tweeted his NSFW sentiment, everyone assumed the Lakers’ game would also not happen
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020
Word got out that members from the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder also decided to protest and join the players’ strike with the Bucks.
The NBA issued a formal statement and declared that all NBA playoff games were postponed. The league, the NBA Players Association, and the owners are all standing behind the players.
As of Thursday morning, there is no word on when playoff games will resume.
Spillover into MLB
Once the Bucks determined they wouldn’t play, the Milwaukee Brewers called a team meeting. They too determined they would follow the Bucks and refuse to play their scheduled game against the Cincinnati Reds.
On the West Coast, two other teams determined they weren’t going to play as well. The Seattle Mariners have the largest number of black players in the MLB on their roster. The Mariners followed the Bucks’ path to protest police violence by skipping their Wednesday night game against the San Diego Padres. The Mariners unanimously voted not to play.
“Instead of watching us, we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening,” tweeted Dee Gordon of the Mariners. “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends.”
Down in California, LA Dodgers star Mookie Betts made the decision to sit out their game against the San Francisco Giants. Betts’ teammates joined him in solidarity before the entire team voted not to play. Their heated rival, the SF Giants, joined them in protest.
The San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers game tonight has been postponed, sources tell ESPN. It's the third MLB game to be canceled in the wake of the NBA players refusing to play after the fallout of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 27, 2020
9:00 AM PT… On Thursday morning, word got out that the NBA will resume playoff games on Friday. However, the three games scheduled for Thursday will be postponed.
Sources: NBA players — and league — are aiming to restart games Friday.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020