There was supposed to be Game 5 of the first-round playoff series featuring the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic on Wednesday August 26.
The problem was one team didn’t show up on the court as tip-off was approaching.
The Bucks players decided they could not play an NBA game considering what is going in their communities outside of the Orlando bubble.
Bucks guard Sterling Brown was a victim of police brutality two years ago after a parking violation escalated into a physical altercation with an officer.
Brown, along with the rest of his Bucks teammates, couldn’t find it in his heart to play an NBA game knowing Black people that look like him are still being harmed by police — and as recently as last Sunday.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin is about 40 miles from Kenosha where 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by law enforcement after a video surfaced online that became viral.
This was personal.
It hit close to home.
The rest of the league followed suit as the Thunder, Rockets, Blazers and Lakers decided they weren’t going to play either for those same reasons.
Other sports leagues followed as MLS, WNBA and MLB games were postponed. Not all the games but enough to catch the attention of a nation. Even a plethora of NFL teams followed suit and canceled their practices with the intent of solidarity. Heck, TNT’s Kenny Smith walked off the ‘Inside the NBA’ set.
Boy, did they catch everyone’s attention.
August 26 will be remembered as a significant day in the sports world — something we’ve never seen before in American team sports.
As emotion was high from fans, players, coaches and management, a lot of questions were asked “what’s next?” There were even talks of players deciding it was time to stop the NBA playoffs entirely, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
However, as players slept on it, they were able to come back to earth come up with a concrete plan of action in the days leading up the resumption of play Saturday.
In a joint statement with the NBA and NBA Players Association, there was a list of three specific plans of action.
- The league is to form a social justice coalition with each team’s respective local governors. The coalition will be focused on address voter suppression and reform in both the police and criminal justice system.
- In the arenas owned by the NBA franchise, the league wants to turn those 15,000-plus seat arenas into polling sites for the 2020 election.
- The players want advertising during NBA playoff games to be centered around “promoting greater civic engagement.”
There was a segment of the population criticizing the players’ decision to “take a day off.” Many of them criticized the lack of action demanded and didn’t deem the strike credible.
With the specific three-step plan sent out a couple days after the strike, the NBA hoped to debunk any of that criticism.
Perhaps, the league drew some inspiration from the NFL in the Baltimore Ravens who released a highly detailed statement a day earlier. This deviated from the generic ‘our thoughts and prayers are with the communities affected’ type of statement.
The Ravens called for specific action to address police accountability and social justice reform.
Some examples of the points in the statement.
- Arrest and charge the police officers responsible for Breonna Taylor’s killing and the shooting of Jacob Blake.
- Demand that Senator Mitch McConnell bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to the Senate floor for vote.
- End qualified immunity; require body cameras; ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants; hold police accountable in court; establish a framework to prohibit racial profiling at federal, state, and local levels
- Encourage everyone to engage in the political process by registering to vote on both the local and national level. (www.risetovote.turbovote.org.)
- Demand prison sentencing reform that is fair and equitable.
The NBA resumed its playoffs on Saturday and is expected to finish the season off in the Orlando bubble. The players now seem more committed than ever to promote social justice in this country.
The likely consensus was the players would be able to do more with raising social justice awareness in the Orlando bubble than outside of it. Camera and microphones are constantly in the players’ faces before and after playoff games.
Perhaps 50 years from now, August 26, 2020 will be remember as one of the most monumental days in sports history.