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NBA players decide to resume playoffs after sitting out in protest

An empty court and bench are shown following

An empty court and bench are shown following the scheduled start time of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.  Credit: AP/Kevin C. Cox

For a second day, the NBA players opted for meetings inside the confines of the Orlando bubble instead of games on the court, canceling another slate of playoff games. But after a morning meeting, hours after a late-night vote by some to call it all off, the players opted to resume the season.

Once the Milwaukee Bucks players made the decision to sit out rather than play Wednesday in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the league opted to join them, calling off all three of the scheduled games and labeling them postponements rather than forfeits.

The players met in the bubble Thursday morning for an hour as a group, deciding to resume the season. This came after a late-night meeting Wednesday in which reportedly the Lakers and Clippers, following the lead of LeBron James, voted to shut down the rest of the season and leave the bubble.

“NBA playoff games for today will not be played as scheduled,” NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said in a statement. “We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday.  There is a video conference call meeting scheduled later this afternoon between a group of NBA players and team governors representing the 13 teams in Orlando, along with representatives from the National Basketball Players Association and the league office and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chairman Michael Jordan, to discuss next steps.”

James attended the meeting Thursday morning and reportedly agreed with the decision to get back to work. He then tweeted shortly after the meeting ended, “Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW! For my @IPROMISESchool kids, kids and communities across the country, it’s on US to make a difference. Together. That's why your vote is @morethanavote  #BlackLivesMatter.”

While the players were meeting in person Thursday morning the NBA conducted a virtual meeting with the Board of Governors at the same time. NBA referees conducted a march in support of the players around the grounds of the Disney complex where they are housed. One immediate change came Thursday morning when Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta announced that the team’s arena, Toyota Center, would be used as a voting site, open from October 13 to 30 and then on November 3.

When the players were deciding along with the league and team owners whether and how to resume the season after shutting down due to the coronavirus there was a faction of the players who were equally concerned that the resumption of the season would take the focus off of the social justice push that many were making after the killing of George Floyd. The league came back with an attempt to make a statement - Black Lives Matter printed on the courts inside the bubble and messages featured on the backs of jerseys.

But when Blake was shot seven times by a police officer it renewed the push by athletes and coaches in the NBA to try to create change. The Bucks players, when they refused to take the court Wednesday, did remain in their locker room and got onto a call with the Wisconsin Attorney General to try to use their platform to urge immediate action to be taken.

While even political figures like White House advisor Jared Kushner criticized their words and said that they should focus on actions, the Bucks read a statement Wednesday detailing their reasoning for refusing to play.

“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 wrong doings,” Sterling Brown and George Hill read. “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 protesters. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today can not 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.”

New York Sports