All three NBA playoff games scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed, with players around the league refusing to play 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.
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.
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 officers 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 p.m., with the Bucks needing a win to advance to the second round.
Players had been discussing boycotting games in the bubble after Blake was shot by police in in Kenosha, Wis. More discussions were scheduled for Wednesday, but before that the Bucks apparently decided they would act.
Magic players and referees were on the basketball court for the game but Milwaukee never took the floor. Eventually everyone else left and the arena staff soon took the balls, towels and tags that go on player chairs back inside.
WATCH | Milwaukee Bucks boycott Game 5:
“Some things are bigger than basketball,” Bucks senior vice-president Alex Lasry tweeted. “The stand taken today by the players and [the organization] shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100 per cent behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change.”
Jeanie Buss, the governor of the Lakers, said 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.
The Bucks remained in their locker room past 6 p.m., more than two hours after they decided to boycott. It was not immediately clear why they were staying in the arena.
“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.”
There are three other playoff games scheduled Thursday. It was unclear if they would be affected. Several NBA players, including LeBron James, tweeted messages demanding change, as did the Boston Celtics’ official Twitter account.
WATCH | Bucks, Magic players exit arena following Milwaukee’s Game 5 boycott:
National Basketball Players Association President Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder and guard Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets were seen emerging from a conversation, not long before it became known that their teams also decided to not play their scheduled game Wednesday.
“Today we stand united with the NBA Office, the National Basketball Players Association, the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the league condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police against people of colour,” the Magic and its ownership group, the DeVos family, said in a statement.
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Morgan Campbell discusses the effect of sports protests:
Demanding societal change and ending racial injustice has been a major part of the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the arena courts, players are wearing messages urging change on their jerseys and coaches are donning pins demanding racial justice as well.
“We’re the ones getting killed,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is Black, said in an emotional postgame speech Tuesday night. “We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back. And it’s just, it’s really so sad.”
The Celtics and Toronto Raptors met Tuesday to discuss boycotting Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, which is scheduled for Thursday. Members of the National Basketball Players Association were also part of those meetings, and Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala — a union officer — said around 2:15 p.m. that he did not believe a boycott plan had been finalized.
“When you talk about boycotting a game, everyone’s antenna goes up,” Iguodala said. “It’s sad you have to make threats like that — I wouldn’t say threats — but you have to be willing to sacrifice corporate money for people to realize there’s a big problem out there.”