The remainder of the NBA season is reportedly in peril. It’s not due to COVID-19 complications, but to players protesting social injustice in the wake of the latest police shooting in the United States.
After Wednesday's games were postponed, the NBA teams still in the league's Florida bubble met Wednesday night to discuss the plan going forward. According to Yahoo, the emotional meeting included the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers voting to cancel the remainder of the season, which resumed July 30 after a three-plus month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the rest of the teams voted to keep playing. The players and NBA Board of Governors are scheduled to meet separately Thursday.
The Milwaukee Bucks initiated the movement, choosing to boycott Game 5 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Orlando Magic. The Bucks never came out of the locker room, staying in there for more than three hours to discuss issues including the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
“The past four months we’ve witnessed multiple injustices regarding the African American community,” Milwaukee players said in a statement when they left the locker room. “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.”
Instead, the Bucks spent time reaching out to Wisconsin officials and lawmakers, including a Zoom call with Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes and attorney general Josh Kaul.
"They just wanted to know what they could do," Barnes said, according to ESPN. "I mean, they were very interested in a call to action. They wanted something tangible that they could do in the short and long-term. They wanted the walkout to be Step 1."
The other NBA games scheduled for Wednesday — Houston vs. Oklahoma City and Los Angeles vs. Portland — were also postponed as players tried to raise awareness and come up with an action plan.
“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,” the Bucks said. “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.”
The NBA was suspended due to COVID-19 when George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers in May. Players across the league spent time protesting, which hasn’t been an option this week as they are inside the NBA bubble at the Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Teams across three more professional leagues followed the NBA’s lead. The Milwaukee Brewers deciding not to play Wednesday’s Major League Baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, and will instead play a doubleheader Thursday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
“The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game,” the Brewers tweeted. “With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression.”
The Seattle Mariners vs. San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants games were also postponed Wednesday, as were all WNBA games and five MLS games. Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba was disheartened by the NHL's decision to play Wednesday's games.
"NHL is always last to the party on these topics. It's kind of sad and disheartening for me and for members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance," Dumba said on Sportsnet 650, according to ESPN. "If no one stands up and does anything, then it's the same thing. That silence. You're just outside, looking in on actually being leaders and evoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so."