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NBA Cancels Playoff Games After Bucks Refuse To Leave Locker Room

Brewers Have Also Declined To Play Wednesday

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Workers remove towels from the bench chairs after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to sit out Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP

The Milwaukee Bucks have declined to play game five of their first-round playoff series in Orlando.

The team’s decision comes after players in the NBA had reportedly been discussing a strike to protest the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake in Kenosha last Sunday.

Several players on opposing teams have voiced their support for Milwaukee’s decision on social media, and the Bucks’ owners issued a statement: “We fully support our players and the decision they made. 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.”

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Following the Bucks’ decision, the Milwaukee Brewers met as a group and decided not to take the field Wednesday. The team was scheduled to play the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park, with reports indicating the Reds will decline the forfeit and opt to sit out the game as well.

Athletes across sports, including George Hill and Khris Middleton of the Bucks, have spoken out in the wake of the Blake shooting.

More than three hours after the game was set to begin, Bucks players, led by Hill, left the locker room, where they were reportedly calling officials including Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. Here’s their statement:

“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 have played an active role in support of social justice this season. In December, the team visited inmates at a medium-security state prison. The Bucks hosted a social justice forum in February.

Kenosha is just 45 minutes south of Milwaukee, where several Bucks players participated in protests against police brutality earlier this year. In June, the Bucks organization hosted a Black Lives Matter demonstration led by Sterling Brown, a Bucks player in the midst of a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department over their excessive use of force.

The Bucks were scheduled to play the Orlando Magic at 3 p.m., but they never took the court. Milwaukee leads the series 3-1. Fifty minutes after the game was set to begin, Bucks television commentators reported the Magic had left the arena and planned to decline the forfeit.

After the game, the Magic shared a statement: “Today we stand 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.”

In response, the NBA postponed two other playoff games scheduled for Wednesday evening. The league’s announcement came after the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder already announced they didn’t intend to play. League officials said they’re hopeful Wednesday’s games won’t be canceled, but even before Wednesday afternoon some players had discussed leaving the NBA’s Orlano bubble.

The WNBA also declined to play any games Wednesday. Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream walked on the court and read a statement on behalf of the league’s players.

“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,” she said.

The teams that were scheduled to play Wednesday walked on the court, and knelt, locked arms and raised their firsts during the national anthem, before heading back to the locker rooms.

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