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Bucks Coach On Team’s Demonstration: ‘Jacob Blake And His Family Are Important To Us’

Bucks, Pistons Kneel After Tip Off To Protest No Charges In Blake Shooting

Members of the Milwaukee Bucks join arms as they kneel during the national anthem
In this Aug. 29, 2020, file photo, members of the Milwaukee Bucks join arms as they kneel during the national anthem before an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Orlando Magic Saturday, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Ahead of Labor Day, major U.S. labor unions say they are considering work stoppages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The unions say they’re following the lead of professional athletes who last week staged strikes to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Ashley Landis/AP Photo

The Milwaukee Bucks set off a chain reaction in August when they decided to sit out a playoff game in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

Across sports, games and practices were postponed. It felt like a major moment in the social justice movement that swept America last summer. But on Wednesday, players and coaches made it clear they don’t believe their work is done.

This week, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley announced he won’t charge any of the officers involved in the shooting. Blake’s uncle called the decision “a slap in the face by Wisconsin government and the DA,” and called on supporters to make their voices heard in a nonviolent way.

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The Bucks did that Wednesday when they played the Detroit Pistons at Fiserv Forum. After Milwaukee won the opening tip, players and coaches from both teams took a knee for seven seconds — Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey. On the Pistons’ ensuing possession, Detroit’s Delon Wright inbounded the ball to Blake Griffin before players from both teams knelt again.

After the game, Bucks center Brook Lopez said it was head coach Mike Budenholzer’s idea to stage a demonstration during the game instead of the national anthem to draw more attention to the message.

It came on the day a mob of pro-Trump extremists overtook the U.S. Capitol as Congress met to certify the presidential election results.

After their protest, the Bucks went on to win their third straight game, improving to 4-0 at home, where the team is playing without fans until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. After the game, Budenholzer said he was proud of his team for their efforts beyond basketball.

“Kenosha is in our backyard. It’s part of Milwaukee. It’s part of Wisconsin. It’s important to us. Jacob Blake and his family are important to us,” he said.

It was also a “great sign of unity between the teams,” he said.

“(Budenholzer) and I talked about it before the game, and the players talked about it, and they decided they were going to have that as a demonstration for (Blake’s) family,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said in a post-game news conference.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the NBA’s reigning MVP, said he and his teammates will continue to use their platform to speak out against injustices.

“I think the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks give us a great platform to talk about anything that bothers us, and this really bothers me,” he said. “My kid is Black, and I cannot imagine my kid going through what I’ve seen.”

Sheskey, who is white, shot Blake, who is Black, in the back seven times on Aug. 23, leaving him paralyzed below the waist. The officers were trying to arrest Blake on a sexual assault warrant. Those charges against Blake have since been dropped.

At a long news conference Tuesday, Graveley, who has been a prosecutor for almost three decades, explained that he didn’t believe there was enough admissible evidence to convict any of the officers involved in the shooting.

Players from the Bucks and Pistons aren’t the only athletes to speak out in the wake of Graveley’s decision. The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics knelt during the national anthem before their game Wednesday, and on Tuesday, the Marquette University men’s basketball team wore black uniforms in protest.

Athletes, including Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers, also took to social media Wednesday to decry the violent events that took place at the U.S. Capitol.