LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – All three NBA playoff games scheduled for Wednesday were postponed, with players around the league choosing to boycott in their strongest statement yet against racial injustice.
Called off: games between Milwaukee and Orlando, Houston and Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland. The NBA said all three games would be rescheduled, yet didn’t say when.
And the reverberations quickly moved into Major League Baseball and the WNBA. The Milwaukee Brewers’ home game with the Cincinnati Reds was called off, by player decision, and other MLB teams were considering similar moves. WNBA players aren’t playing their three regular-season games scheduled for Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla.
In the NFL, the Detroit Lions canceled their practice Tuesday, protesting the incident involving Jacob Blake, and racial injustice. The players and coaching staff discussed what happened and then filed out of the team’s practice facility. They used a dry-erase board to address the media with the words: “The world can’t go on” and “We won’t be silent!! One pride.”
The rest of the NFL saw what the Lions did, and has come together with their own discussions about social issues and how they might be able to affect change.
“At this time, everybody needs to come together and join hands and love each other for what we are and the privilege we have in the short period of time we have on Earth,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who is white. “As opposed to walking in fear, to walk with strength and pride. And if we do that, we’ll be a great example to the world.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who is also white, thought what the Lions did was “a great sign of unity, a sign of strength and support as a team.” He said his team will continue the dialogue among players and staff.
The dramatic series of moves began when the Bucks – the NBA’s team from Wisconsin, a state rocked in recent days by the shooting by police of Blake, a Black man – didn’t take the floor for their playoff game against the Magic. The teams were set to begin Game 5 of their series shortly after 4 p.m., with the Bucks needing a win to advance to the second round.
Players had been discussing boycotting games in the bubble after the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Players and coaches in the bubble were invited to a meeting Wednesday to discuss how – or if – to go forward with the season.
Bucks guard Sterling Brown, who has a federal lawsuit pending against the city of Milwaukee alleging he was targeted because he was Black and that his civil rights were violated in January 2018 when officers used a stun gun on him after a parking violation, and teammate George Hill read a statement when the team emerged from its locker room nearly 3-1/2 hours after its game was to begin.
Brown called the video of Blake being shot “horrendous.”
“There has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” Brown said, as he and Hill were flanked by their teammates in an arena hallway.
“We fully support our players and the decision they made,” Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan said in a joint statement. “Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change.”
Added Jeanie Buss, the Governor of the Lakers, in a tweet: “I stand behind our players, today and always. After more than 400 years of cruelty, racism and injustice, we all need to work together to say enough is enough.”
There are three more playoff games scheduled Thursday. It was unclear if they would be affected. Several NBA players, including the Lakers’ LeBron James, tweeted out messages demanding change and the Boston Celtics’ official Twitter account did the same.
“We weren’t given advanced notice about the decision but we are happy to stand in solidarity with Milwaukee, Jacob, and the entire NBA community,” Orlando guard Michael Carter-Williams said. “Change is coming.”
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