The Milwaukee Bucks took the nation by surprise Wednesday night when they elected to sit out of Game 5 of their playoff series to protest the Police shooting of Jacob Blake. The Bucks’ decision led to the NBA postponing all of the games scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. NBA executives met with teams and owners to discuss how to manage the delicate situation. In a joint statement with NBA Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts, NBA commissioner Adam Silver outlined the developments at the meeting and the game plan moving forward.
“We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality. Among others, the attendees included player and team representatives of all 13 teams in Orlando. All parties agreed to resume NBA playoff games on Saturday, Aug. 29 with the understanding that the league together with the players will work to enact the following commitments:
1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.
3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.
“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community.
“We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together – in Orlando and in all NBA team markets – to push for meaningful and sustainable change.”Joint Statement from NBA + NBAPA
National Turmoil and Close Quarters Make for a Tense Players’ Meeting
The decision to return to finish the playoffs was a seemingly simple one as it fell in line with the mentality a lot of players have, however, that was not entirely the case. On Wednesday night, after the Bucks began their protest, the league took advantage of the fact that they are all staying together in Orlando’s magic bubble and held an impromptu meeting.
When addressing continuing the playoffs, Lebron James and Kawhi Leonard vocally opposed returning and their Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers both voted to end the season. They were the only two teams to vote this way and while some players echoed their thoughts, others did not.
Anthony Davis essentially said that he will go with whatever is decided while Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala—who are both Players Association executives—focused on the financial ramifications that would go hand in hand with boycotting the rest of the playoffs.
Tensions were high at the meeting as players were frustrated that they were on different pages and were understandably disgusted with the Jacob Blake incident, as well as the state of the country in general; Los Angeles Clippers head coach summed up that sentiment by saying in a press conference that “we keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back.”
In a show of solidarity, 100 NBA employees walked out on Friday so that they could call state officials and “demand justice for Jacob Blake and for the police officers to be held accountable.” In a letter to Commissioner Adam Silver, the striking staff explained their decision:
“We believe the NBA, its leadership, and the Board of Governors unequivocally have the leverage to do more to directly address and combat police brutality and systemic racism in this country,
“We acknowledge and credit all the work the NBA has already done, but we have the power to have a greater impact. The NBA has not done enough proactively and rather has relied too heavily on our players. … We understand that we are a business, but fears of losing revenue and advertisers should not numb us to the cries of Black men, women, and children that continue to be oppressed in the same communities in which we play.”NBA Staff Letter to Adam Silver