There will be no NBA basketball on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. With three playoff games on the schedule, NBA players have decided to strike. The move comes after Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, WI, was shot seven times in the back by police after trying to break up a fight. The Kenosha police officers, who do not wear body cameras, shot Blake in front of his three children. Blake is now reportedly paralyzed from the waist down. As a result, protesters in Kenosha are demanding justice and accountability.
The NBA players said they wanted to use their platform to influence social justice before heading to the bubble, and now they are doing it. This is a day that will go down in history.
The Milwaukee Bucks put the movement into motion. The Bucks were scheduled to play the first game of the day against the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of their first round playoff series. Minutes before the game was supposed to tip-off, the Bucks informed officials they would not be taking the court. The Magic stood with Milwaukee, saying they wouldn’t accept a victory from the Bucks via forfeit.
The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder players announced they wouldn’t play either not even an hour after the Bucks’ decision. Players from the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers made the same decision shortly after.
NBA players took power into their own hands with collective action
The league reportedly did not see a player strike coming. The NBA anticipated all of the games on Wednesday would go on as scheduled in the hours leading up to Bucks-Magic, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The league has now announced that the three games have been postponed and will be rescheduled. The NBA can put a make-up date on the calendar, but it won’t matter if the players are committed to striking in protest of police brutality.
There was some speculation that players could take a stand on Wednesday, but no one was sure what it would look like. Before Bucks players made their decision, members of the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors sounded off on how the shooting of Blake was impacting them.
Jayson Tatum: “We’re more than just basketball players; we’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”— Boston Celtics (@celtics) August 26, 2020
Jayson Tatum: "How many points you scored and did you win, that shit don't matter right now. Being a Black man in America is more important than what I do on the basketball court."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 26, 2020
Fred VanVleet: “...At the end of the day, if we're gonna sit here and talk about making change then at some point we're gonna have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose, rather than just money or visibility.” https://t.co/YEtHJd5Kyw— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 25, 2020
Clippers coach Doc Rivers also gave a powerful statement after his team’s victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of their playoff series on late Tuesday night. Rivers gave an eloquent speech on fear in America and how it relates to systemic racism and empty gestures by politicians.
“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’ve been hung. All you keep hearing about is fear. It’s amazing how we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
NBA players have now used their platform to take a stand
Many NBA players were reportedly reluctant to come to the Disney bubble because they thought it would distract people from the movement for social justice going on in the streets following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota. Players eventually agreed to head to the bubble so long as they could use their platform to shine a spotlight on systemic racism and police brutality. The NBA allowed certain league-approved messages on the back of jerseys, painted “Black Lives Matter” on the courts, and watched as players regularly turned their media availability into pleas to arrest murderous cops.
It couldn’t even last for a month before another unarmed Black man was unnecessarily shot by police. Shortly after the news of Blake’s shooting became public, Bucks guard George Hill said “We shouldn’t have even came to this damn place, to be honest.”
“This world has to change. The police department has to change. Us as a society have to change. Right now we’re not seeing any of that.”— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 24, 2020
George Hill calls for social justice after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/Ux9DXqERr3
NBA players couldn’t be in the streets with protesters when they were trapped in the bubble. When the Bucks made the decision to boycott the game, the players found another way to take a stand.
Thursday’s games may be postponed now, too. The season feels like it’s hanging in the balance.
Emotions are raw, players were already worn out of bubble environment prior to the Jacob Blake shooting and sources say discussions within teams are ongoing about postponing tomorrow's three games too -- and beyond. "The season is in jeopardy," one vet player here tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
Tonight's meeting with players will go a long way toward determining how the players will move forward with rest of season, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
NBA players are showing us what real leadership and courage looks like. It’s an unprecedented move in league history and it could impact the immediate future of American sports as we know them.
One thing is for sure: basketball doesn’t feel important right now. There’s power in collective action, and the players have found it. Whatever happens next, this is one of the most powerful days in the history of the sport.