National Basketball Association (NBA) players agreed on Thursday not to boycott the rest of the season after forcing the postponement of a slate of playoff games in a protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said the NBA has become “like a political organization” after its boycott in solidarity with those protesting the police shooting of a Black man in the Wisconsin town of Kenosha. The Sunday shooting triggered days of violent unrest and has riled U.S. professional sports.
Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; The court and benches are empty of players and coaches at the scheduled start of an NBA basketball first round playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Image Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports/ Reuters
NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said the league is “hopeful” to resume games either on Friday or Saturday, but was postponed a second day of playoff games on Thursday.
After the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, the NBA postponed all three games on the day’s schedule and Thursday postponed three more games that had been set for later in the day. Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA also postponed games on Wednesday. The women’s league postponed its Thursday games as well.
The Bucks players said in a statement on Wednesday they were unable to focus on basketball due to the events in Kenosha, which is located about 40 miles (60 km) south of Milwaukee.
The NBA players decided to resume the playoffs after meeting among themselves in the bubble-like campus at Disney World in Florida, where the games are being played due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA Board of Governors held an emergency meeting on Thursday.
Since the NBA restarted its pandemic-interrupted season, courts have had “Black Lives Matter” painted on them and many players have worn jerseys with social justice slogans. NBA referees marched on Thursday around the Disney campus in support of the players, wearing black T-shirts with messages like “Everybody vs. Racism” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Bass said there is a conference call scheduled for later Thursday between a group of NBA players and team officials, along with representatives from the players’ union and the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee chairman, Michael Jordan, “to discuss next steps.”
Members of the Connecticut Sun hold hands and kneel during the playing of the national anthem before a game on Aug. 12. On Wednesday, players chose not to participate in a pair of scheduled games in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Image credit Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press/CBC
Trump, during a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Hurricane Laura, criticized the NBA.
“They’ve become like a political organization and that’s not a good thing. I don’t think that’s a good thing for sports or the country,” he said.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, told Politico he planned to reach out to NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers about the player protests.
James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!”
Kushner told CNBC that “NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially” and that the players have “put a lot of slogans out” rather than “actual action.”
Another White House official, Marc Short, called the NBA players’ protests “absurd” and “silly.”
James, along with other NBA players and coaches, has been critical of Trump in the past. In 2018, he accused Trump of trying to use sports to divide Americans. Trump that year questioned James’ intelligence.
Rockets players, seen here before Game 4 of their series against Oklahoma City, joined Thunder players in deciding to boycott Wednesday's Game 5. That followed the Bucks boycotting Game 5 of their series against the Magic following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis. Image credit: Kevin C. Cox, Associated Press/Hearst
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 presidential election, and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris - the first Black woman on a major-party ticket - praised the actions of the NBA players.
“It takes monumental courage to stand up for what you believe in,” Harris said.
The Hockey Diversity Alliance, which works against racism and intolerance in hockey, called on the National Hockey League to suspend its two playoff games scheduled for Thursday. Athletes from around the world have united behind anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man in police custody in Minneapolis in May.
Kenosha has been rocked by civil unrest and violence since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back seven times at close range in an incident captured on video. Blake was left paralyzed by the shooting and is being treated for his injuries.