The Milwaukee Bucks had a chance to close out their first-round NBA playoff series with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday but it didn’t happen.
In response to the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police, the Bucks decided to boycott Game 5 in the NBA bubble in Orlando. Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back by police on Sunday. He is reportedly paralyzed from the waist down and it’s unclear if he will recover. Protests and riots have broken out around the country in the wake of the shooting.
Three hours after making the decision, players emerged from the locker room with Sterling Brown and George Hill each reading a part of the following statement:
“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 wrongdoings.
“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. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot 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.”
Team owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan also released a statement on the decision Wednesday night.
“We fully support our players and the decision they made. Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change.”
The Milwaukee organization, including players like Hill and Khris Middleton, were among many in the NBA community to speak out on the shooting. Hill lamented even coming to the bubble as he felt it took away from the fight for social justice reform and ripping out the systematic racism many see in the country.
In his pregame availability, @LoriNickel asked Mike Budenholzer about the possibility of boycotting:
There were reports Tuesday that the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics were in discussions about boycotting the first game of their second-round series on Thursday. Those talks included a meeting Tuesday night with another one reportedly scheduled to take place Wednesday night.
The Bucks had given no indication they were thinking about sitting out Wednesday’s game, but Hill showed up on the inactive list for the game, suggesting he was not comfortable playing. Orlando players did come out on the floor for pregame warmups before leaving and not returning.
Under the NBA rulebook, the league has the right to award Orlando a victory as the Bucks forfeited. But, according to Shams Charania, the Magic are prepared not to accept the forfeit.
Bucks players are in locker room attempting to reach the attorney general of Wisconsin, Josh Kaul, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA@Stadium. Magic players are leaving the arena soon — not accepting the Bucks‘ forfeit.
Some things are bigger than basketball. The stand taken today by the players and org shows that we’re fed up. Enough is enough. Change needs to happen. I’m incredibly proud of our guys and we stand 100% behind our players ready to assist and bring about real change