The Milwaukee Bucks chose to boycott their Wednesday matchup against the Orlando Magic in protest of the police shooting of, a 29-year-old Black man, in Wisconsin. The decision created a ripple effect throughout the sports world, as the NBA canceled the rest of Wednesday's games and multiple athletes and teams from other leagues followed suit.
The NBA said three games — the Bucks vs. Magic, Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers — would be rescheduled at a later date.
A few hours after the game was postponed, Bucks players delivered a statement. "Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action. So our focus today cannot be on basketball."
"We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake, and demand the officers be held accountable," the statement continued. "For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take 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 November 3."
The Magic said it stands "united with the NBA office, the National Basketball Players Association, the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the league condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police against people of color."
Blake's family's attorney, Ben Crump, called the boycott "a powerful statement" and applauded athletes who speak truth to power and "motivate the positive change we want to see in the world."
The WNBA also opted to not play any games on Wednesday. Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream read a statement on behalf of the players saying, "We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and will continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues, and look to take collective action."
In Major League Baseball, players from the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds decided not to play their game Wednesday. The Seattle Mariners also voted not to play their scheduled game against the San Diego Padres Wednesday night.
According to the Mariners' Dee Gordon, the team's vote was unanimous. The Mariners organization released a statement in support of the players' decision. The game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants was postponed as well.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka announced she would not play in her semifinal match at the Cincinnati Open on Thursday. "I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction," she said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Five Major League Soccer matches were also postponed Wednesday. The only match to go on was already in progress when the decision was made to postpone the others. Those five matches will be rescheduled, the league announced.
Blake was shot multiple times in the back by police in Kenosha on Sunday, leaving him paralyzed, according to the family's attorney. The shooting sparked protests in Kenosha and throughout the country.
Several NBA stars, including LeBron James and Donovan Mitchell, expressed support for the Bucks on social media. "F*** this man," James tweeted. "We demand change. sick of it."
The issue of police brutality is deeply personal to Bucks guard Sterling Brown, who in 2018 was tackled, tased and arrested by police officers for parking in a handicap spot. Brown sued the city of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department following the incident. He was never charged and recently rejected an offer to settle the lawsuits.
Multiple officers involved were suspended after bodycam footage of the arrest was released.
"The city of Milwaukee wanted to give me $400,000 to be quiet after cops kneeled on my neck, stood on my ankle, and tased me in a parking lot," Brown wrote in the Player's Tribune in July. "I want more than just money. I want cops to show respect and to be held accountable when they step out of line, especially in the neighborhoods they are supposed to serve and protect every day. If they kill a man, I want them to receive the same punishment that another guy on the street would."
Earlier this week, several NBA players were asked about potential boycotts. "Is it really doing anything at the end of the day, if we're going to sit here and talk about making change, then at some point we're going to have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose, rather than just money or visibility," Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet told reporters.
Bucks point guard George Hill on Monday openly questioned if the playoffs should continue in light of the shooting. "We can't do anything [from Orlando]," Hill told ESPN on Monday. "First of all, we shouldn't have even came to this damn place, to be honest. I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are."
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