UPDATED at 11:40AM PT with NBA statement. NBA players have voted to resume the playoffs but will take another night off on Thursday in response to the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, WI.
“NBA playoff games for today will not be played as scheduled. We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday,” league EVP Mike Bass said in a statement. “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.”
Jacob Blake’s shooting led to days of unrest in Kenosha, during which two protesters were killed.
Three games per night have been on the docket from the “bubble” in Orlando, FL, a restricted campus created as a solution to COVID-19, which interrupted the season (and much else) in mid-March. When the league, team owners and players reached an agreement to resume the season in the bubble, some significant commitments to social justice were woven into the plan. The courts are painted with large “Black Lives Matter” lettering, players can opt to wear related slogans on their jerseys, and the NBA made a $300 million commitment to social justice causes.
But the events in Kenosha offered proof that much more progress needs to be made. Wednesday night saw the historic action of players – led by the Milwaukee Bucks, whose home arena is just 40 miles from Kenosha – refusing to play their games. Bucks players had conversations with authorities in Wisconsin about repercussions for the police involved in the shooting of Blake.
The LA Lakers and LA Clippers took an initial vote indicating they were in favor of skipping the rest of the season. That would have violated the terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, which limits the players’ ability to walk off the job. The result could have been not only financial difficulty in 2020 but also longer-term headaches.
Several NFL teams called off practices Thursday in solidarity with the NBA-led movement. Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer also scrapped games, and tennis standout Naiomi Osaka became the first individual athlete to opt out of playing at a tournament in Cincinnati.