There had been only one players’ boycott of an NBA game in the league’s history: In 1961, Bill Russell and some (not all) Boston Celtics sat out a game to protest racial injustice.
Nearly 50 years later, we are still having the same discussion as a nation. And NBA teams are still making a statement. The Milwaukee Bucks voted to boycott their playoff game Wednesday against the Orlando Magic. Soon there was a domino effect and all of Wednesday’s NBA slate had been postponed.
Standing together outside their locker room, the Milwaukee Bucks players read a statement about the boycott.
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.
“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”
The Bucks’ players had the full backing of team ownership.
“We fully support our players and the decision they made,” Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan said in a statement. “Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change.”
Support for the players’ actions was widespread across the NBA world.