The NBA schedule for Wednesday was halted entirely after the Milwaukee Bucks staged an unprecedented boycott over the shooting of an African-American man, James Blake, by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.
Wide protests sparked off after a viral video showed two police officers pumping down seven bullets in the back Blake, leaving him paralysed below the waist.
Milwaukee Players had later released a statement. “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,” read the statement. “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
NBA later called an emergency meeting on Thursday and there was no certainty about the games scheduled for today (Thursday).
Major League Baseball team Milwaukee Brewers followed their NBA counterparts and called off the scheduled game against the Cincinnati Reds, leading to the cancellation of several other MLB games.
Later, tennis star Naomi Osaka also withdrew from her semi-final at the Western & Southern Open in New York, scheduled for today (Thursday). “Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman,” she said.
“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,” Osaka stated on her twitter handle.
“I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction.”
The tournament has been suspended till Friday.
The Women’s NBA also reportedly postponed its scheduled fixtures for Wednesday.
The NBA’s players union has also backed the protest. “The players have, once again, made it clear – they will not be silent on this issue,” National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement.
At an emergency meeting of NBA teams in Florida late Wednesday, the crisis threatened to put the entire season in jeopardy, with LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers both voting to abandon the season. All other teams voted to continue.
The NBA said in a statement on its Twitter account that the league and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) were announcing that ‘in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled’.
The Bucks, whose star man Giannis Antetokounmpo was named defensive player of the year this week, are among the favourites to collect only the second NBA championship in their history.