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Boycott: NBA playoff games called off amid player protest

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 26, 2020

By Brian Mahoney</p><p> and Tim Reynolds Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Making their strongest statement in the fight against racial injustice, players from six NBA teams decided not to play postseason games on Wednesday in a boycott that quickly reverberated across other professional leagues.

Games in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA were called off as players across four leagues decided the best way to use their platform and demand change was to literally step off the playing surface.

Players made the extraordinary decisions to protest the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday of Jacob Blake, a Black man, apparently in the back while three of his children looked on.

Kenosha is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee. That city’s NBA team, the Bucks, started the boycotts Wednesday by refusing to emerge from their locker room to play a playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

“There has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” said Bucks guard Sterling Brown, who joined teammate George Hill in reading a statement on the team’s behalf. Brown 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.

Other games that were not played: NBA playoff games between Oklahoma City and Houston, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland, along with three WNBA games, three MLB games and five MLS matches. Two members of the St. Louis Cardinals sat out their team’s game with the Kansas City Royals as well.

The NBA’s board of governors have called a meeting on Thursday to discuss the new developments, said a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the meeting plan was not revealed publicly.

“The baseless shootings of Jacob Blake and other black men and women by law enforcement underscores the need for action,” the NBA Coaches Association said in a statement. “Not after the playoffs, not in the future, but now.”

The statement by the Bucks also called for state lawmakers to reconvene and take immediate action “to address issues of police accountability, brutality, and criminal justice reform.”

“I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Bucks,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers tweeted.

The NBA did not say when Wednesday’s games would be played or if Thursday’s schedule of three more games involving six other teams would be affected. NBA players and coaches met for nearly three hours Wednesday night to determine next steps, including whether the season should continue. They did not come to a consensus, a person with knowledge of the meeting told AP.

“We fully support our players and the decision they made,” Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan said in a joint statement after Milwaukee players decided to not take the floor. “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.”

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.”

Several NBA players, including the Lakers’ LeBron James, tweeted out messages demanding change, as did some teams.

“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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