The Milwaukee Bucks started a wave of protest in the NBA on Wednesday (Aug. 26), when they made the decision to go on strike and call off their playoff game against the Orlando Magic in solidarity with Jacob Blake.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot multiple times in the back by police officers on Sunday (Aug. 23) in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he entered the driver’s side door of an SUV. The devastating incident took place in front of Blake’s three young children, aged three, five and eight.
“The past four months have shed light on the racial injustices facing our African American community,” the Bucks said in a team statement. “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 protesters. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action. So our focus today cannot be basketball.”
A number of other NBA teams soon followed, with the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers also taking part in the strike. Three Major League baseball games were also postponed on Wednesday night in protest, including contests between the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee, the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres in San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in San Francisco.
The WNBA also canceled three games on Wednesday night in protest, with players from the Mystics, Dream, Sparks and Lynx taking a knee at centre court before leaving and the Mystics entering the arena in Florida wearing shirts that spelled Blake’s name on the front and featured bloody bullet holes on the back signifying his injuries from police bullets.
In addition, former NBA player and basketball commentator Kenny Smith walked off the set of Wednesday’s NBA on TNT in support of the protest, saying, “For me, I think the biggest thing now … as a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight,” before unplugging his mic and taking his leave. Tennis star Naomi Osaka pulled out of her scheduled semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open in New York as well, tweeting, “Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. And as a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis.”
Following the news, a number of celebrities took to social media to support the important gesture launched by the Bucks. See below.
this is so moving https://t.co/Ilgfnxupop
— Mark Ronson (@MarkRonson) August 27, 2020
Thank you @Bucks
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) August 26, 2020
All hail the NBA i am proud of their decision to boycott upcoming games as they demand answers about the latest shooting of another un armed Black man, Jacob Blake.. and in the words of Doc Rivers: It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, that doesn’t love us back…
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) August 26, 2020
FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 26, 2020