The shooting of 29 year-old Jacob Blake sent yet another shiver down the spine of the Black Community. Monday August 24th in Kenosha, Wisconsin did the same for all those fighting for racial equality in America. It hit Clippers coach Doc Rivers hard when on Tuesday he fought through tears in his post game interview. Rivers, whose father was a police officer, delivered a powerful statement, “We keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
In advance of Wednesday’s playoff games, rumors began to swirl that the Raptors and Celtics had talked about boycotting game one of the NBA playoffs second round. Nothing had been confirmed, but everyone around the NBA knew this was a real possibility. Then in an instant, just before 4pm EST on Wednesday August 26th, a decision made by the Milwaukee Bucks changed the dynamic.
The Bucks Make History
The Wisconsin-based Bucks team decided not to take the court for their game five contest against the Orlando Magic. In their protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake, they led the entire sports community’s effort to fight for racial equality. On a larger scale, it wasn’t just about Blake. It was about how these heinous acts of racism continue within our society. The Bucks decision laid down a gauntlet.
It wasn’t premeditated. “I came into the arena thinking I was going to play,” one Bucks player said. The team went through their pregame routine. But team management facilitated a meeting between the team and the state’s political leadership. After speaking with Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes and attorney general Josh Kaul, the team decided they would sacrifice game five to stand against inequality.
Their decision was made independent of the league, their opponent or the rest of the sports world. And what happened there after made for one of the most historic days in sports, and frankly, civil rights history. They intended to sacrifice a mere playoff game, but quickly realized their decision prompted their opponent, the league and teams from sports leagues around the country to join them in solidarity.
Many were caught off guard. But owners and organizations quickly issued statements of support for the players throughout the afternoon. By 5pm, the decision not to play sports in protest of racial inequality wasn’t just the biggest story in sports, it was the biggest story, period.
Players, Coaches, Officials Meet
The players organized a meeting Wednesday night to discuss everything that had happened. All 13 remaining teams were invited. It was historic to have so many players and coaches gathered, debating such important issues, inside a hotel ballroom in Orlando, Florida. The bubble, where the NBA had sought refuge from the COVID-19 virus, became a focus of resistance. As players and coaches discussed the idea of continuing the season, two of the 13 remaining teams actually voted no, the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers.
According to ESPN, coaches, players and executives alike questioned one another on the idea of stopping the season. “If we stop playing today,” one front-office executive asked his players on Wednesday, “is that changing anything in the world? Will everyone else in the world just move on, and then will we lose our platforms?” Another executive said, “The question we asked our players: What do you hope to accomplish by not playing the games? The answers were very different. I think that’s something everyone is still formulating for themselves. What’s the endgame here, and does not playing accomplish it?”
Where Does The NBA Go From Here
In the end, the decisions made on Wednesday August 26th will forever be remembered as the day professional athletes took a groundbreaking stance against social injustice. It was not planned. Based on reports, the players coaches don’t really know what the end game is right now. They’re just trying to make a lasting impact on equality within the American society. One step at a time. The league and its players scheduled to meet on Thursday August 27th to further discuss next steps.
The decisions Wednesday ultimately were made based on gut feel and emotion. They say trust your instincts, and that is what the NBA community did. No one knew how this protest would be received or the depths it would reach within the hearts of millions. Yet that is the beauty in taking a leap of faith. Sometimes, you just have to jump and hope for the best.