It’s been an unprecedented day in an unprecedented season.
The sports world was upended Wednesday starting with a protest by the Milwaukee Bucks, spreading to a postponement of the entire league’s playoff slate tonight and then branching out to Major League Baseball, where the Brewers and Reds cancelled their regular-season game.
Within two hours, the Bucks’ decision to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just south of their hometown of Milwaukee, spurred an avalanche of support from across the country — including some of the biggest stars in the game. Suddenly, a full-blown strike in solidarity was underway as the larger movement for racial justice erupted, leaving fans to wonder if they’d seen the last of basketball in the Orlando bubble this season.
“We’re tired of the killings and the injustice,” the Bucks’ George Hill told The Undefeated.
LeBron James shared strong words of his own in support of the Bucks.
Game 5 of the Bucks-Magic playoff series was supposed to tip off at 4 p.m. EST. But Milwaukee never showed up.
Orlando took the floor for pregame warm ups but were not joined by the top seed in the eastern conference. The Magic left the court around 4 p.m., refused to accept Milwaukee’s forfeit and returned to their team hotel, also deciding not to play.
The Bucks spent the next hour inside their locker room trying to get a hold of Wisconsin Attorney General, Josh Kaul, who is in charge of overseeing the Blake case.
Updated on August 26, 2020 at 7:55 p.m.: When the Bucks players emerged from their locker room hours later, they delivered a statement in which they called for the officers involved in Blake’s shooting to be “held accountable.”
“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” the players said. “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.”
In a post on social media, Alex Lasry, the senior Vice President of the Bucks and son of co-owner Marc Lasry, endorsed the players’ decision to strike.
“The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen,” he wrote.
Milwaukee is 40 miles north of Kenosha, Wisconsin, the site where Blake was shot seven times by local cops that has left him paralyzed.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer spoke to the press yesterday about the shooting. Many other athletes and coaches have shared their reactions to the horrific shooting as well.
The Raptors and Celtics were the first NBA teams to consider a strike. Now it looks like the rest of the NBA are also considering a boycott of their game tomorrow. Both games between the Rockets and Thunder, and Lakers and Trail Blazers have been postponed and will be rescheduled, according to the NBA.
Every player in the bubble is invited to talk tonight at 8 p.m. to determine how the league will proceed. Or, perhaps, cancel the season altogether.
Within an hour of announcing the strike, all other NBA teams decided to skip tonight’s scheduled games. In their statement, the league said all Game 5’s would be rescheduled — but that’s assuming the players would play in them at all. It remained unclear what the long-term ramifications of the day’s events would be.
The Undefeated’s Marc J Spears said he believes players are wondering, “whether they should be [in the bubble] or not.”
According to ESPN’ Adrian Wojnarowski the NBA Board of Governors will meet tomorrow, likely to discuss the future of the NBA Bubble.
Other teams and athletes outside the NBA will be striking as well.
Tennis champion Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian and mother is Japanese but has lived in the U.S. since she was three, took to Twitter to announce she would not compete in the semifinal of the Western & Southern Open Thursday saying “continued genocide of Black people at the hand of police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.” Osaka posted her statement in English and Japanese.
The WNBA which had first announced it would play its three-game schedule later decided to postpone their schedule.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds will not play their game this evening. Jason Heyward of the Cubs decided to sit out his game tonight in support of the movement. And the Seattle Mariners, which have the most Black players of any MLB team on their roster — including Dee Gordon, Mallex Smith, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Dunn — voted unanimously not to play their game with the Padres. The Giants-Dodgers game was also cancelled, according to reports.
Professional sports teams striking in response to ongoing racism is historically unprecedented.
These athletes are not here to play games, literally and figuratively.
Today’s news also comes on the fourth anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s first on-field demonstration in a football game.