NBA players boycott playoff games in protest of Jacob Blake shooting

Ryan Silver, Assistant Sports Editor

NBA players and coaches came together as a unit and collectively boycotted all playoff games Aug. 26 due to the controversial police shooting of Jacob Blake. The boycott, in addition to the coronavirus cancellations, have made the 2019-20 season like no other. It began when Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player and one of the first professional athletes in the US to test positive for COVID-19. This forced NBA commissioner Adam Silver to suspend all games, including a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder after players had already warmed up. However, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, NBA players made a voluntary decision to boycott their playoff games in an attempt to show discontent with the continued police brutality in the US.

“I thought the league as a whole was able to send a strong message, that there are things much more important than playing basketball,” said Mitchell Huggins, senior. 

The shooting of Blake occurred in Kenosha, WI, which lies about 40 miles away from the Milwaukee Bucks’ home. The Bucks, led by guard George Hill, were the first team to decide not to play their playoff game. This was followed by the Magic, Thunder, Rockets, Lakers and Trail Blazers, until the entire league was suspended indefinitely. The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), led by President Chris Paul, held a meeting in the Orlando bubble to address social justice issues. Following the meeting, the NBPA announced that they would continue on with the playoffs, even though the Lakers and Clippers both voted against playing. 

“I’m an NFL guy, I do not really watch basketball. But what the league did was awesome. I will definitely buy a Bucks jersey to show support for how they took action,” said Shane Barry, STEM coordinator at Athens Drive. 

Many NBA players went to Twitter to address fans and critics, including Lebron James, Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Nassir Little and many others. The athletes showed support to the Bucks organization for taking a stand, and demanded that change must be made for the league to resume. Inspired by the NBA, the NHL also postponed all playoff games to show support and unity. 

“When I say black lives matter, I’m not referring to an organization, taking a political stance or following a trend. I’m telling whoever is capable of seeing or hearing the statement, that black lives matter. Simple,” said Little via Twitter.

“WE DEMAND CHANGE! SALUTE @Bucks,” said Mitchell via Twitter.

The boycott occurred Aug. 26, exactly four years after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first made headlines by kneeling during the national anthem. Kaepernick has since been a vocal leader about police brutality and has been sponsored by Nike to help keep sending out his message. 

“Colin Kaepernick was the first one to speak out about (police brutality), and now people are finally starting to listen,” said Barry.