The NBA Playoffs were brought to a standstill yesterday when the Milwaukee Bucks announced that they would not contest their playoff game with the Orlando Magic.
NBA officials announced the postponement of all three of Wednesday night’s playoff games as players called for action against police brutality in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin – a short distance from Milwaukee. In a statement the NBA said: “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.”
Other sports and leagues followed suit with the WNBA, MLB and MLS announcing the postponement of fixtures following the civil unrest.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka also withdrew from her semi-final at the Western & Southern Open in New York, scheduled for Thursday, saying “before I am an athlete, I am a black woman”.
Why are players and teams boycotting?
Players are boycotting games in solidarity with demonstrators protesting the deaths of victims of police brutality.
The death of Minneapolis man George Floyd – who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes - in May sparked nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
Protests have intensified in recent days following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Wisconsin man who was shot in the back seven times by police officer Rusten Shesky after police were called out to a domestic incident.
Blake is paralysed from the waist down following the shooting.
The incident was captured on phone video, igniting disgust and outrage over racial injustice.
Two demonstrators were shot dead at protests in Kenosha on Tuesday by a white gunman, with footage appearing to show the shooter collaborating with police earlier in the evening.
Players and teams have said that by boycotting games they can draw attention to the issues of racial injustice and systemic oppression.
Prior to the restart of the NBA season Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving revealed that he would not be participating in the remainder of the season for the same reasons.
Milwaukee Bucks statement in full
Following the announcement that they wouldn’t be participating in Game 5 of their match with Orlando Magic, the Milwaukee Bucks players released the following statement.
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.
“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.
“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.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3."
What have other players and teams said?
Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry wrote on Twitter: “Some things are bigger than basketball. 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.”
Lakers talisman LeBron James tweeted: “F*** THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT”, while the Lakers later posted “#JusticeForJacobBlake”.
MLB pitcher Justin Dunn tweeted: “Enough is enough.”
Tennis player Naomi Osaka explained her decision to boycott a WTA tournament on Twitter.
She said: “Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman. And 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.
“I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction.
“Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hands of people is honestly making me sick to my stomach.”