KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer seasons were interrupted Wednesday as players boycotted games to protest racial injustice and Sunday’s shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association postponed Wednesday’s three playoff games in the bubble at Walt Disney World after the Milwaukee Bucks made it clear they would not play Game 5 of their opening-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic in protest of Blake’s shooting.
Milwaukee is 40 miles north of Kenosha.
Later, NBA playoff games between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers were also postponed to a date to be announced.
The Milwaukee Brewers postponed Wednesday night’s baseball game with the visiting Cincinnati Reds. The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres postponed their games as well, and several MLB players protested by sitting out games that were played.
The WNBA postponed three regular-season games in its bubble in Bradenton, Fla. And five of the six scheduled MLS games were postponed.
Later, the Bucks released a statement saying, in part, “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball. ... We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable.”
The Associated Press reported that the NBA Board of Governors is expected to meet Thursday to discuss the matter.
Before their scheduled game, the Bucks players didn’t show up for pregame warmups. The Magic players then left the court without accepting a forfeit, as a sign of solidarity with the Bucks.
“We fully support our players and the decision they made,” the Bucks ownership group said in a 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.”
The NBA players and coaches in the bubble met Wednesday night to discuss the issue, and a league source said they first spoke via Zoom with the family of Jacob Blake. The Miami Heat’s Andre Iguodala and the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James spoke about the people staying united, and holding their team owners accountable for their stances.
The group talked about the finances of more boycotts, and future collective bargaining agreements if they ended the season. The Bucks’ Kyle Korver and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers talked about what steps to take next, and others talked about their power to vote. Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas said, “Today is historic.”
The players are expected to meet again on Thursday at 11 a.m.
The boycotts were supported by many across the sports world. Pete Carroll, the coach of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, said the NFL players may make their voices heard again, and players and executives from around the NBA and MLB backed the protests.
“I was excited to see us play, and hopefully close out our series, tonight. But I stand behind our players today and always,” Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, whose squad holds a 3-1 series lead over Portland, said in a Twitter statement. “After more than 400 years of cruelty, racism and injustice, we all need to work together to say enough is enough.”
The Bucks play in the state where Blake was shot, and they spoke with Wisconsin’s attorney general, Josh Kaul, on a conference call to voice their concerns.
The Bucks experienced this situation firsthand last season when one of their players, Sterling Brown, was profiled by police officers in Milwaukee. A situation in which Brown’s car was parked across two spaces resulted in him being tased and left with bruises and cuts.
During the NBA’s discussion to restart the season, the NBPA emphasized the importance of players speaking against social injustices and police brutality. After the recent shooting of 29-year-old Blake, many players said they are feeling helpless while being constricted in a bubble.
James, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are just some of the players who have voiced their frustration.
“What are we willing to give up? Do we actually give a [expletive] about what’s going on, or is it just cool to have Black Lives Matter on the backdrop or wearing a T-shirt?” VanVleet said.
“Obviously if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big an impact that would have,” Tatum said. “Everyone would have to talk about it . … We’re more than just basketball players. We’re people.”
It’s not just players in the playoffs. Chris Paul, Donovan Mitchell, and other NBA players have spoken up since Blake was shot. There’s a concerted effort to evoke change in the justice system.
“F--- THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT,” James posted on his Twitter account shortly after the Bucks’ protest.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has not commented on the potential of other boycotts around the league.