Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. (Keith Allison CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Milwaukee Bucks refused to leave their locker room on Wednesday, boycotting a scheduled playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, which is about 45 minutes from the Bucks’ home arena in Milwaukee.
Since restarting the season in July, the NBA and its players have joined calls for racial justice. Players are wearing social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys and the court in the NBA’s “bubble” in Florida is painted with the words “Black Lives Matter.”
The announced boycott comes the day after two people were shot and killed by a 17-year-old counterprotester in Kenosha. After refusing to take the court, NBA reporter for The Athletic Shams Charania reported that the players were in the locker room attempting to contact Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul.
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Shortly after the Bucks boycotted their game, players for the four teams also scheduled to play Wednesday, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder as well as the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers, announced their own boycotts.
The Milwaukee Brewers, scheduled to play the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday night at Miller Park, followed the Bucks suit and voted not to play.
On Tuesday night, Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers grew emotional as he responded to Blake’s shooting in a press conference.
“We’re the ones getting killed,” Rivers said. “We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.”
This is not the first time the Bucks have been involved in the movement for racial justice.
This summer, several Bucks players, including reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, marched in Milwaukee to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
“This is our city, man,” Antetokounmpo said at the march. “We got to come out here and support. This is not the Bucks … This is the community. We want peace. We want justice. And that’s why we’re out here. That’s what we’re going to do today. That’s why I’m going to march with you guys.”
In 2018, Bucks player Sterling Brown was tackled, tased and arrested by Milwaukee police because of a parking violation. Brown has filed a lawsuit against the department and the officer was fired.
Support flowed in from around the NBA after news of the Bucks’ boycott spread.
“F–K THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT,” NBA superstar LeBron James tweeted. James has been one of the league’s most outspoken advocates for change.
Former NBA rookie of the year Donovan Mitchell also expressed his support.
“WE DEMAND CHANGE! SALUTE,” Mitchell, who plays for the Utah Jazz, tweeted.
It was not immediately clear how the boycott would affect the Bucks’ seven-game playoff series, in which the team holds a 3-1 lead. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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