The Milwaukee Bucks had a chance to close out their first-round NBA playoff series with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday but it didn’t happen.
In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police, the Bucks decided to boycott Game 5 in the NBA bubble in Orlando. Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back by police on Sunday. He is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down and it’s unclear if he will recover. Protests and riots have broken out around the country in the wake of the shooting.
Three hours after making the decision, players emerged from the locker room with Sterling Brown and George Hill each reading a part of the following statement:
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”
Full statement from the Milwaukee Bucks: pic.twitter.com/jjGEyVcCmB
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
Team owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan also released a statement on the decision Wednesday night.
“We fully support our players and the decision they made. 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 Milwaukee organization, including players like Hill and Khris Middleton, were among many in the NBA community to speak out on the shooting. Hill lamented even coming to the bubble as he felt it took away from the fight for social justice reform and ripping out the systematic racism many see in the country.
In his pregame availability, @LoriNickel asked Mike Budenholzer about the possibility of boycotting:
"There's a lot of concern, there's a lot of conversation, there's a lot of frustration." pic.twitter.com/ed33L4WbcI
— Stephen Watson (@WISN_Watson) August 26, 2020
Later Wednesday, the Milwaukee Brewers followed the Bucks and postponed its game against the Reds at Miller Park.
From the players of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds: pic.twitter.com/qkhH4AmBKm
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 26, 2020
There were reports Tuesday that the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics were in discussions about boycotting the first game of their second-round series on Thursday. Those talks included a meeting Tuesday night with another one reportedly scheduled to take place Wednesday night.
The Bucks had given no indication they were thinking about sitting out Wednesday’s game, but Hill showed up on the inactive list for the game, suggesting he was not comfortable playing. Orlando players did come out on the floor for pregame warmups before leaving and not returning.
Under the NBA rulebook, the league has the right to award Orlando a victory as the Bucks forfeited. But, according to Shams Charania, the Magic are prepared not to accept the forfeit.
Bucks players are in locker room attempting to reach the attorney general of Wisconsin, Josh Kaul, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Magic players are leaving the arena soon — not accepting the Bucks‘ forfeit.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 26, 2020
The Bucks decision garnered praise from around the NBA:
WE DEMAND CHANGE! SALUTE @Bucks ✊🏾🙏🏾🗣
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) August 26, 2020
Powerful move by the Bucks but now I’m curious to see what are OKC, Houston, Lakers and Blazers are going to do?!
— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) August 26, 2020
— DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) August 26, 2020
WE DEMAND JUSTICE!!!
— Jamal Murray (@BeMore27) August 26, 2020
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020
Brave. So proud to be a @Bucks fan. Bigger than basketball ❤️.
— Mallory Edens (@MedensEdens) August 26, 2020
Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change
— Alex Lasry (@AlexanderLasry) August 26, 2020
SALUTE ✊🏾 @Bucks
— 13am Adebayo💥 (@Bam1of1) August 26, 2020
Bucks player Sterling Brown had a knee to his neck and was punched by Milwaukee PD for parking incorrectly.
Former Buck John Henson had the cops called on him while shopping for jewelry, just for being black.
This is personal to them.
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) August 26, 2020