NBA Postpones 3 Playoff Games As Milwaukee Bucks Protest Wisconsin Police Shooting

Aug 26, 2020
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The NBA has announced all three of tonight's scheduled playoff games have been postponed. They're following the lead of the Milwaukee Bucks. They were planning to boycott their game tonight against Orlando in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. It also follows several days of players voicing anger and frustration about not being able to do more to speak against social injustice while they're essentially locked away in a pandemic quarantine bubble near Orlando, Fla.

Here's Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill speaking earlier this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE HILL: 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 of what the issues are.

CORNISH: NPR's Tom Goldman has been following this and has more. And Tom, to start, what was behind the decision today?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Well, Audie, the Bucks were scheduled to play the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of their first round playoff series today. The Magic reportedly came out on the court to warm up; the Bucks did not. And after about a half hour, the basketballs were packed away. It became obvious what wasn't going to happen. George Hill, who we just heard from, confirmed to a reporter for The Undefeated that his team wasn't going to play because of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., the same state obviously where the Bucks play. Hill was quoted as saying, "we're tired of the killings and the injustice." Of course, we need to point out Jacob Blake wasn't killed in that police shooting.

CORNISH: You're describing a decision that sounds like it came as a surprise - right? - I mean, people walking away from the court. What happened?

GOLDMAN: Well, yeah, it was a surprise, and then again, it wasn't. You know, when this happened, I actually was in the midst of writing a story about a possible boycott tomorrow night by the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors in their scheduled playoff game. Several players from those teams had spoken quite passionately about their anger and the possibility of a boycott. But then the Bucks preempted them. But that wasn't surprising, considering the growing frustration among players in the so-called bubble in Florida.

CORNISH: Tell us more about the bubble. What is their quarantine situation?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, it's worked quite well. I mean, it's been pretty airtight. The NBA has been hugely successful with that. The irony is, games are being halted because of social justice issues and not the pandemic, which was the concern earlier. But you know, the frustration really bubbled over after the Blake shooting. Before the NBA relocated to Florida in early July, there were some players voicing concern then that playing games would distract from the issues about police violence and social inequality that were fueling demonstrations around the country. And as you probably know, many of the NBA players took part in those demonstrations. With the Blake shootings, those frustrations grew exponentially, players saying that kneeling in protest during the national anthem or wearing jerseys with social justice messages - that wasn't enough, and more had to be done. And certainly, boycotting games is more.

CORNISH: Are there going to be more games that could go away because of this?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, as you mentioned, Audie, the two other games scheduled for tonight - Houston against Oklahoma City, the LA Lakers against Portland - those were postponed. They were all Game 5s of their playoff series as well, and they'll be rescheduled. We haven't heard anything about beyond today. But we know the feelings among players aren't going to go away. The league's most prominent player, LeBron James of the Lakers, a man with 47 million Twitter followers, tweeted an expletive, and then this - "we demand change. Sick of it."

CORNISH: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks for the update.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And Milwaukee's baseball team, the Brewers, also decided to boycott their game tonight against the Cincinnati Reds. Other major league teams are reportedly considering following along. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.