NBA players decided Thursday that they want to continue the season, coming to that consensus one day after three postseason games were postponed in a protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Despite the players’ reported decision, the league still postponed playoff games for a second time on Thursday. It’s not clear yet when the postseason will resume, but the NBA released a statement Thursday saying it’s hopeful teams will begin playing again on Friday or Saturday.
ESPN was the first to report the players’ decision.
Play was set to resume at 4 pm with Game 6 of the Western Conference series between Utah and Denver on Thursday. Boston and Toronto were also set to begin their second-round series before the Clippers and Dallas met in the nightcap.
The NBA’s board of governors met separately Thursday to discuss next steps.
One potential remedy for the schedule, a source told the Associated Press, was to play the three games that were postponed Wednesday on Friday, and the three games scheduled for Thursday on Saturday, though that had not been decided.
Bucks players refused to take the court for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with the Orlando Magic, and in doing so, brought the North American sports world to a screeching halt for the second time in 2020 following the initial coronavirus outbreak in March.
Since the Bucks’ boycott, the NBA postponed the other two playoff games on Wednesday while the MLS and WNBA pushed their regular season matchups back as well. The NHL continued its postseason on Wednesday, angering African-American players Evander Kane and Matt Dumba, but the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in New York did suspend play after Naomi Osaka sat out in protest.
‘I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,’ Osaka tweeted. ‘Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.’
Several Major League Baseball games were also postponed, including the Milwaukee Brewers’ meeting with the Cincinnati Reds.
Milwaukee is a 45-minute drive north of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where the 29-year-old father of three was shot in the back seven times by police, who were responding to a domestic disturbance call. The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down, according to a family attorney, and sparked mass demonstrations in Wisconsin, where two Black Lives Matter protestors were killed by a 17-year-old vigilante, according to police.
Although it won’t affect the Bucks after Wednesday’s playoff games were postponed by the league, there is ‘failure to appear’ language in the league manual, according to former Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks.
‘Like everything this year, we are dealing with situations that have never happened before,’ tweeted Marks, who now works for ESPN.
Not only could the game be forfeited, but teams can also incur a $5 million fine.
More lost NBA games would be another punishing financial blow in a season in which the league was already headed to losses of hundreds of million of dollars, potentially leading to ramifications that would be felt in future years.
Before coming to Disney, many NBA 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.
They ultimately decided coming to the bubble and playing televised games would give them the largest platform, though now at least some are wondering if that’s still true. Toronto coach Nick Nurse said he’s heard some players on his team say they were thinking about going home.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers hopes they won’t.
His players considered boycotting a playoff game in 2014 after audio tapes featuring former owner Donald Sterling were revealed. He said this time is different because it’s the whole league, rather than one team, weighing the decision.
‘I think every team has to decide what they want to do and honestly I hope everyone plays,’ Rivers said. ‘I just think showing the excellence in doing your job, there’s nothing wrong with that, but also fighting for what’s right is important as well.’
It certainly is for the Bucks, who play about 40 miles from Kenosha. Sterling Brown, one of the players to read the statement, 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 it is for the Raptors, whose team president, Masai Ujiri, had an altercation with an Oracle Arena security guard after Game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals. A video of it released recently appears to show an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy initially shoved Ujiri, who is Black, twice.
They are scheduled to open the second round Thursday against Boston, but Nurse said his players were already having discussions about not playing.
‘Boycotting the game has come up for them and again, as a way to try to demand a little more action and I think that’s really what they want,’ Nurse said.
‘I think there’s enough attention and there’s not quite enough action and I think that’s what I can sense from the discussion. Their disappointment of man, how can we get something to change?’
It probably starts with actions like the Bucks took. Rivers and LeBron James had passionately described the emotions the NBA community felt after seeing the video of Blake’s shooting.
But it’s going to take more than players sitting out NBA games.
‘It’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values,’ former President Barack Obama tweeted, commending the NBA and WNBA players while posting a link to Rivers’ comments from earlier this week.