Officials stand beside an empty court at the scheduled start of an NBA first-round playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. The Bucks didn’t take the floor in protest against racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake, and it set off a ripple of protests across the sports world. Ashley Landis, Pool

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — An unprecedented NBA walkout over racial injustice postponed a second day of the playoffs Thursday, although players pledged to finish the postseason even as they wrestled with their emotions about wanting to bring change in their communities.

For now, the basketball courts in the NBA’s virus-free bubble at Disney World remained empty. And other athletes across the sports world also said they weren’t ready to resume playing.

They are still angry and emotional after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. NBA players considered not playing again the rest of the postseason and going home to their communities, although they decided Thursday they want to continue, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

“We obviously agree that whether we play or not, we still have to do our best to make change and we still have to do our part in the community,” Orlando guard Michael Carter-Williams said in a video interview with a Magic public relations official. “It’s obviously not easy, given everything that’s going on. But I think that if we can go out there and do our best and also have a list of things that we want to accomplish, everything gets completed.”

The NBA decided to postpone three more games Thursday to join the three that weren’t played a day earlier. Play was set to resume at 4 p.m. with Game 6 of the Western Conference series between Utah and Denver. Boston and Toronto were also to begin their second-round series at 6:30 p.m., before the Clippers and Dallas met in the nightcap.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league hoped to resume Friday or Saturday. He added that a group of players would hold a video conference call later Thursday with representatives of the owners, including Michael Jordan, and the National Basketball Players Association to discuss the next steps.


The tennis tours had already decided to pause play Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in Flushing Meadows, New York; a number of NFL teams canceled practices; and the NHL canceled two playoff games Thursday and two on Friday – including Game 4 of the second-round series between the Bruins and Lightning scheduled for Friday – after members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance criticized the league for playing Wednesday.

A second night of WNBA games were also postponed, and at least seven Major League Baseball games – including the Red Sox vs. the Blue Jays – were called off.

“This is not a strike. This is not a boycott. This is a affirmatively day of reflection, a day of informed action and mobilization,” WNBA players’ union president Nneka Ogwumike said on ESPN.

Three Major League Baseball games were postponed Wednesday, although others went on. Games postponed Thursday included Oakland at Texas, Philadelphia at Washington, Minnesota at Detroit, Colorado at Arizona, Baltimore and Tampa Bay, and Miami at the New York Mets. In New York, players took their positions at the scheduled game time while teammates lined up in front of the dugouts to observe 42 seconds of silence in honor of Jackie Robinson, then left the field.

The sudden stoppages were reminiscent of March, when the NBA suspended its season after Utah center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Other sports quickly followed until the worldwide sporting landscape had almost completely come to a halt.

NBA players agreed to resume their season in July at Disney, making clear they intended to chase social justice reform just as passionately as a championship. But the video of Blake’s shooting on Sunday left them so disgusted and dispirited that they wondered whether they should continue playing.


The players voiced their frustrations in a meeting Wednesday night, then continued talks Thursday morning. As they prepared to do that, NBA referees led a march around campus to show their support in the fight against racism.

The Raptors and Celtics had been most vocal about the idea of not playing, but the Milwaukee Bucks acted first when they opted to remain in their locker room instead of playing their Game 5 against Orlando on Wednesday. Kenosha is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee.

Before coming to Disney, many NBA players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing that a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.

They ultimately decided that playing would give them the largest platform – while also providing a bigger target for critics.

The NBA’s relationship with the White House eroded when Donald Trump was elected after President Barack Obama was close with some players and officials. Trump was critical of the league again Thursday.

“They’ve become like a political organization, and that’s not a good thing,” Trump told reporters, noting that the league’s ratings are down from previous seasons. “I don’t think that’s a good thing for sports or for the country.”


Earlier Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said in a CNN interview that the NBA protests are “absurd and silly” when compared to their response to ongoing to human rights violations in China.

NBA players ultimately decided coming to the bubble and playing televised games would give them the largest platform, though now at least some are wondering if that’s still true. Toronto Coach Nick Nurse said he’s heard some players on his team say they were thinking about going home.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers hopes they won’t.

His players considered boycotting a playoff game in 2014 after audio tapes featuring former owner Donald Sterling were revealed. He said this time is different because it’s the whole league, rather than one team, weighing the decision.

“I think every team has to decide what they want to do and honestly I hope everyone plays,” Rivers said. “I just think showing the excellence in doing your job, there’s nothing wrong with that, but also fighting for what’s right is important as well.”

It certainly is for the Bucks, who play about 40 miles from Kenosha. Sterling Brown, one of the players to read the statement, has a federal lawsuit pending against the city of Milwaukee alleging he was targeted because he was Black and that his civil rights were violated in January 2018 when officers used a stun gun on him after a parking violation.

And it is for the Raptors, whose team president, Masai Ujiri, had an altercation with an Oracle Arena security guard after Game 6 of last year’s NBA finals. A video released recently appears to show an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy initially shoved Ujiri, who is Black, twice.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: