Referees stand on the sidelines of an empty court before the scheduled start of the game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. All three of Wednesday’s NBA playoff games were postponed.AP
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida – 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 did not 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 are not playing their two regular-season games scheduled for Wednesday in Bradenton, Florida.
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 Jacob 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 pm local time, 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, Wisconsin. 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 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, who has a 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, 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.”
Lakers owner Jeanie Buss tweeted: “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 on 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.”
Magic players and referees were on the basketball court for the game but Milwaukee never took the floor. The National Basketball Referees Association said it “stands in solidarity with our players’ decision to boycott tonight’s games” and the National Basketball Players Association tweeted that the “revolution will be televised”.
Demanding societal change and ending racial injustice has been a major part of the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World.
Many players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing that a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.
Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman, was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky apartment during a narcotics investigation on March 13. The warrant was in connection with a suspect who did not live there and no drugs were found.
Then on May 25, Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly eight minutes.