Decision made in the wake of the Jacob Blake police shooting and the white vigilante killing of two people last night.
The horn sounded, but there were no teams on the court for the start of Wednesday afternoon’s NBA playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic as Bucks players made the decision to boycott the game to protest the ongoing violence happening less than an hour from their home arena.
The last-minute decision set off a chain reaction, and all NBA games were subsequently canceled in solidarity with the Bucks.
Sports announcers had to pivot to analyzing the significance of the Bucks’ players making a stand in the wake of the police shooting Sunday of Jacob Blake in Kenosha and the Tuesday night shooting by at least one vigilante of three protesters, leaving two of them dead. A 17-year-old from Illinois was arrested Wednesday in connection with the attacks.
“This is personal for the Milwaukee Bucks,” said ESPN’s NBA host Rachel Nichols, quickly put on-air in place of their NFL program. “Sterling Brown himself was a victim of police brutality just two years ago.”
She was referring to a 2018 incident in which the player was arrested, tased, and had an officer’s knee on his neck for a parking violation.
Nichols’ sentiment was echoed by analyst and former player Kendrick Perkins.
“It’s a message for Wisconsin that they will not stand for this. They want justice. They want justice for him [Jacob Blake],” he said.
[Editor’s Note: After this article was published, the Milwaukee Brewers players also decided they would not play Wednesday evening’s scheduled game at Miller Park against the Cincinnati Reds.]
Orlando Magic players had taken warm-ups on the court, went into the locker room, but then never came out after hearing about the Bucks’ decision.
Blake, 29, was shot several times in the back by a Kenosha police officer in an incident captured on cellphone video. Blake was trying to enter his SUV against police orders as they responded to a verbal altercation between two women. Three of Blake’s young children were in the vehicle when their father was repeatedly shot at point-blank range.
Kenosha has seen three nights of demonstrations and violence. Late Tuesday night someone with a rifle began shooting and was able to walk past police and get away. Two people died, another was injured. Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Illinois was arrested Wednesday and will face a first-degree intentional homicide charge in Kenosha County circuit court, according to a document reviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
According to the sports website SB Nation, Bucks players had spoken publicly about the shooting with Milwaukee guard Grant Hill saying “ he felt helpless being in Orlando, and wished the team had never gone to Orlando,” the report said.
The website Bleacher Report showed a video clip from the court in Florida where the scoreboard clock counts down to zero and a horn blares to signify the start of the game. But only the referees and a few other officials were in the otherwise empty arena.
Alex Lasry, senior vice president for the team, stated via Twitter, “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.”
Fox Sports Wisconsin analyst Zora Stephenson told the television audience, “The word that keeps popping in my head is inspiring because when you talk about wanting change, all of us have to ask ourselves what are we willing to give up? You can talk. You can tweet. You can protest. You can donate. But what are you really willing to give up to see that change happen? They are giving up a playoff game in the pursuit of something they have worked for all year. And they have said, this is worth it.”