At an emergency meeting of NBA teams in Florida late Wednesday, the crisis threatened to put the entire season in jeopardy, with LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers both voting to abandon the season. All other teams voted to continue
The Milwaukee Bucks led a historic sporting boycott Wednesday over the US police shooting of a black man, forcing the NBA to halt its playoff schedule and prompting a wave of walkouts across multiple sports.
The NBA postponed its entire slate of Wednesday fixtures after the Bucks refused to play game five of their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Orlando Magic in protest over the shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.
Blake was seriously injured after being shot point blank in the back seven times by police officers in a confrontation captured on video.
"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," the Bucks players said in a statement explaining their boycott.
The NBA and the NBPA today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled.— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2020
"Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball."
The Bucks' no-show prompted the NBA to scrap two other games scheduled for Wednesday: Houston's clash with Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers' matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers.
At an emergency meeting of NBA teams in Florida late Wednesday, the crisis threatened to put the entire season in jeopardy, with LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers both voting to abandon the season. All other teams voted to continue.
It was not immediately clear whether the Lakers and Clippers would continue the season as scheduled.
A walkout by two of the NBA's strongest teams and title contenders -- as well as its biggest star -- would deal a devastating blow to the credibility of the season. The NBA's Board of Governors is meeting on Thursday to address player concerns.
The boycotts spread to other sports, with the Milwaukee Brewers' game against the Cincinnati Reds becoming one of several Major League Baseball games to be postponed.
In tennis, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka abruptly announced her withdrawal from the WTA Western & Southern Open semi-finals, where she was due to play on Thursday.
A brave & impactful move by @naomiosaka, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 27, 2020
She was to play in the semis tomorrow.
Athletes using platforms for good means so much.
Don’t remain silent.#BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/Tro3SlRXT8
"As a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis," Osaka said.
In a statement released late Wednesday, ATP/WTA organizers said all play scheduled for Thursday had been postponed in recognition of the fight against racial inequality.
“…before I am a athlete, I am a black woman.”@naomiosaka joins the protests against racial injustice, she will not be playing in the @CincyTennis Semifinals tomorrow.#BlackLivesMatter | #CInCyTENNIShttps://t.co/duLKUUgfmR— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) August 27, 2020
Elsewhere, the Women's NBA postponed its scheduled fixtures for Wednesday, while Major League Soccer also called off five of six games.
The NBA postponements marked a dramatic escalation in the league's calls for social justice, which have reverberated across the sport in the months since the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May.
"Having two boys of my own and me being an African-American in America and to see what continues to happen with police brutality towards my kind ... it's very troubling." - @KingJames pic.twitter.com/haC4ubLdqg— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 27, 2020
Lakers superstar James voiced solidarity with the Bucks decision in a tweet shortly after the boycott was announced.
"WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT," James wrote.
The NBA's players union also backed the protest.
"The players have, once again, made it clear -- they will not be silent on this issue," National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement.
Renewed anger had swept the NBA after Sunday's shooting of Blake.
We stand with our players and the players of the NBA in their demand for justice and the end of racial violence.https://t.co/DVsNZJVDSI— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 27, 2020
The 29-year-old was shot repeatedly in the back as he attempted to get into his car, which contained his three children.
Protests have erupted in Kenosha since the shooting, with two people killed after a teenager opened fire on demonstrators with an assault rifle on Tuesday.
The NBA's coronavirus-halted season resumed last month in Orlando against the backdrop of nationwide protests following Floyd's death.
NBA teams have knelt in protest during the pre-match playing of the US national anthem, while the words "Black Lives Matter" have been painted onto each court staging games in Florida.
Players, many of whom took part in protests against Floyd's killing, have been allowed to wear jerseys bearing social justice messages.
The first hints of boycotts over Blake's shooting came from Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who revealed that his players had discussed refusing to play their game with Boston on Thursday.
I commend the players on the @Bucks for standing up for what they believe in, coaches like @DocRivers, and the @NBA and @WNBA for setting an example. It’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values. pic.twitter.com/rUGETgAt7P— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 27, 2020
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens described Blake's shooting as "horrifying."
"Our thoughts are with Jacob Blake and his family and obviously that video was horrifying, awful," Stevens said. "To think of three kids being in that car, it's ridiculous.
"These are hard times. With the pandemic going on, with this constant wave of inequality -- it's maddening."
The Los Angeles Clippers African-American coach Doc Rivers contrasted the latest shooting with the apocalyptic rhetoric at this week's Republican Party convention.
Doc Rivers: “We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones getting denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung, we’ve been shot.”— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 26, 2020
“It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers speaks out about the police shooting of Jacob Blake: "All you hear is Donald Trump, and all of them talk about fear, we're the ones getting killed, we're the ones getting shot."https://t.co/WxKV9K5ofL— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 26, 2020
"All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear," Rivers said in remarks on Tuesday.
"We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We're the ones that are denied to live in certain communities.
"We've been hung, we've been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It's amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back."
"You don't need to be Black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged."— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 26, 2020
NBA coach Doc Rivers held back tears as he discussed race and policing in America, days after the police shooting of #JacobBlake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/I5k5bMGPmV