The NBA players and teams are on strike to protest the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, putting the playoffs on hold. ESPN reports that today's three games are postponed, but that the playoffs will resume as soon as Friday.
Yesterday, the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play in their game against the Orlando Magic in the NBA bubble. Players had been discussing boycotting games in the wake of Blake's shooting, and the Bucks, who practice and play not far from Kenosha, Wisconsin, took a stand. The Magic followed their lead, as did the four other teams set to play Wednesday (the Lakers, Trail Blazers, Thunder and Rockets).
The NBA players were soon joined by players from the WNBA, MLB and MLS, as well as tennis player Naomi Osaka. Sports commentators called it a boycott, though it's more accurate to call it a strike.
Yesterday was coincidentally the fourth anniversary of Colin Kaepernick first kneeling in protest of the national anthem before an NFL preseason game.
All three Thursday games are reportedly also postponed. Players and league officials will meet later today to "formulate action plans to address racial injustice issues and iron out details of restarting the playoffs," ESPN reported.
How the NBA strike started
First, some context: NBA players were among the many protesters marching with the Black Lives Matter movement that surged in June, after the death of George Floyd. When the NBA restarted within a bubble at Disney World, the players said they wanted to use their platforms to bring attention to social justice. Both players and coaches often used their media time to talk about the continuing racism in America.
Then, on Sunday, Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police Kenosha, Wisconsin. While he survived, he is paralyzed from the waist down. On Tuesday, two Kenosha protesters were shot and killed by a gunman; the suspect is a white teenager named Kyle Rittenhouse, who was arrested yesterday.
The players and coaches once again spoke out, demanding justice for Blake and the other victims. The NBA's biggest star, LeBron James, tweeted:
And y’all wonder why we say what we say about the Police!! Someone please tell me WTF is this???!!! Exactly another black man being targeted. This shit is so wrong and so sad!! Feel so sorry for him, his family and OUR PEOPLE!! We want JUSTICE https://t.co/cJxOj1EZ3HAugust 24, 2020
And Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers made this emotional and tearful statement:
Doc Rivers with raw emotion and a thunderbolt cry for justice: "All you hear is Donald Trump & all of them talking about fear. We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot...It's amazing, we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back." pic.twitter.com/19dHu9UlZ5August 26, 2020
On Tuesday and Wednesday, players were openly talking about boycotting games. Then, the Bucks decided to take a stand. They've had experience with racism and police brutality. In 2018, Sterling Brown was subjected to a wrongful arrest in which police used a Taser on him. In 2015, then-Bucks players John Henson was racially profiled at a jewelry store.
On Wednesday afternoon, game 4 of the Magics vs Bucks was scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. However, the Bucks declined to come out of the locker and the Magic refused to take a forfeit.
Instead of playing, the ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Bucks were on a conference call in the locker room with Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul and lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes.
Will the NBA playoffs be canceled?
While the NBA announced that the three Wednesday playoffs games were postponed, it's not clear when they'll actually happen.
The resumption of the playoffs was in some doubt. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that during a players meeting Wednesday night, the Lakers and Clippers voted to boycott the rest of the season. Stars LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard indicated they supported walking out.
The players met at 11 a.m. ET Thursday to discuss the options for the rest of the playoffs and whether they should end the season. The league's Board of Governors is also meeting separately.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the August 27 games will be postponed, and talks are underway on when to continue.
Today's three playoff games will be postponed, source tells ESPN. Discussion underway on when teams will resume play. https://t.co/A2PazNKDhyAugust 27, 2020
A source told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that return to play by the weekend is expected.