The Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the court today for their scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic in order to bring more attention to the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by an officer of the Kenosha Police Department. The Milwaukee Brewers held a meeting later the same day and decided not to play against the Cincinnati Reds for the same reason.
The Bucks game, scheduled for 3 p.m. CST, was to be game five of the series in the first round of the NBA playoffs. But the Bucks did not leave their locker room at all, and ten minutes after the game was scheduled to begin, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Bucks would not be taking the court. Bucks point guard George Hill was the first to make a statement, saying “we’re tired of the killings and the injustice.” The Magic also chose not to play, meaning that the game will not count as a forfeit for the Bucks.
Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan released a statement in support of the organization’s players and their decision. “The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices in front of us,” the statement reads. “Our players have done that and we will continue to stand by them.”
The Bucks spent over 3 hours in their locker room after the game’s postponement. At least some of that time was spent on a conference call with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, according to Wojnarowski.
At around 6:20 p.m., the Bucks left the locker room and Hill and Bucks guard Sterling Brown read a statement to the media. “Despite the overwhelming pleas for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” said Brown. They called for the officer who shot Jacob Blake to be held accountable. The statement also called upon the Wisconsin State Legislature to come back into session “after months of inaction,” and for legislators to enact “meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality, and criminal justice reform.” The full statement is available here.
Other teams in the NBA playoffs joined the Bucks in their stand against police killings. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets would not take the court for their game scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers, set to play later tonight, followed suit. Ultimately, the NBA and NBPA announced that all of today’s games would be postponed and rescheduled.
Aside from the fact that the shooting took place just 40 miles away from Milwaukee, the horrific shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer raised painful memories for members of the Bucks organization. Sterling Brown settled a lawsuit against the Milwaukee PD for kneeling on his neck and tasing him for parking illegally in 2018. He penned a piece in The Players’ Tribune about his experience with police brutality.
Bucks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer was the head coach for the Atlanta Hawks when then-Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha had his leg broken by NYPD officers outside of a nightclub in April 2015, forcing him out of that season’s playoffs. Sefolosha was awarded a $4 million settlement for his false arrest.
An hour after the Bucks game was postponed, the Brewers met to discuss the possibility of joining the strike. Fifty minutes later, Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal reported that the Brewers club had decided not to play, and that the Reds would agree not to play as well, ruling out a forfeiture situation.
Brewers pitcher Brent Suter issued a statement after the game’s postponement, noting that “our community and our nation in so much pain,” and that the Brewers and Reds want “100% of the focus to be on issues that are much more important than baseball.”
While the NBA has been a force for change in the current movement against police brutality, with many players beginning postgame press conferences by mentioning that the Louisville PD officers who murdered Breonna Taylor have yet to be arrested, the MLB’s embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement has been slower and less extreme.
The Bucks strike has inspired other athletes to protest similarly. All WNBA contests tonight have been cancelled. The San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners also agreed to postpone their game tonight. Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward chose not to play in the Cubs’ scheduled game against the Detroit Tigers tonight. Heyward was listed as a “healthy scratch,” and the game will continue as scheduled.