By Dan Woike
Los Angeles Times
The Milwaukee Bucks refused to play Game 5 of their NBA playoff series against the Orlando Magic in the aftermath of a police shooting 40 miles from their home arena, leading the NBA to postpone the games scheduled for Wednesday.
The decision comes as other teams inside the NBA bubble, predominantly Toronto and Boston, had discussed whether sitting out games would be a more effective statement against racism, police brutality and social injustice. The Lakers were scheduled to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 6 p.m. PDT.
The Bucks didn’t take the court for pregame warmups Wednesday afternoon against Orlando. Magic players who were on the court eventually headed back to the locker room as did the game’s officials.
Shortly after the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to not play Game 5 of their series, the NBA announced all games would be postponed.
Earlier in the day, both Toronto coach Nick Nurse and Boston star Jayson Tatum said players on both teams have discussed leaving the bubble.
“It makes me question if this was the right decision,” Raptors star Pascal Siakam said in a video conference call Wednesday. “Are we really making a change? Are we really doing something meaningful?”
The Bucks’ refusal to play Wednesday is a sharp escalation in the league’s fight against racism. Teams have knelt during the playing of the national anthem in previous games. Players have replaced their names on their jerseys with social justice messages and used media interviews to discuss topics like police shootings.
But video of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, being shot in the back multiple times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis. on Sunday reignited urgency among many in the league to refocus efforts in that fight.
Bucks guard George Hill, speaking after Game 4 on Monday, said the Blake shooting was heartbreaking.
“First of all, we shouldn’t even have came to this damn place, to be honest,” Hill said. “Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are. But we’re here. It is what it is. We can’t do anything from right here. But definitely when it’s all settled, some things need to be done. This world has to change. Our police department has to change. Us, as a society, has to change. Right now, we’re not seeing any of that. Lives are being taken as we speak, day in and day out. There’s no consequence or accountability for it. That’s what has to change.”
Hill told the Undefeated’s Marc Spears that the Bucks aren’t playing because “we’re tired of the killings and the injustice.”
The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, who are scheduled to begin their second-round series Thursday, have been in discussion since a players-only meeting Tuesday. Refusing to play Game 1 has been discussed, multiple players and coaches said.
“We’re just trying to come together and figure out a way how we can do something,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said Wednesday before Milwaukee’s protest.