Joe Murphy/Getty Images The Milwaukee Bucks kneel for the National Anthem prior to game against the Orlando Magic during Round One, Game Four
The NBA has postponed Wednesday's playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks said they would boycott their Game 5 against the Orlando Magic in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake.
"The NBA and the NBPA today announced 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," the league said in a statement Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the news broke of the Bucks' boycott.
"Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled," the statement added.
Athletes and teams from across several sports, including the MLB, MLS and tennis, have joined the boycott.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Bucks' boycott, writing on Twitter that the players "made this decision in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin, ultimately deciding that they wouldn't leave the locker room for the start of Game 5 against Orlando."
The NBA and the NBPA today announced 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.— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2020
The Bucks players made this decision in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin, ultimately deciding that they wouldn't leave the locker room for the start of Game 5 against Orlando. https://t.co/COJ6E0aJLj— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
The team remained in the locker room as Magic players began warming up before tip-off for Game 5 of the series, CBS Sports reported.
Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan said in a statement later on Wednesday that they "wholeheartedly agreed" with the players' decision not to play.
"We fully support our players and the decision they made," said the joint statement, obtained by PEOPLE. "Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change."
During a press conference earlier in the day on Wednesday, Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said that the team had had conversations about a possible boycott.
"I'm very aware of what's happened in Kenosha, and I think myself and our players and our organization are very disturbed by what's happened in Kenosha," Budenholzer told reporters. "It's a great challenge to have an appreciation and a desire to want change and something different, better in Kenosha and Milwaukee and Wisconsin, and then to go out and play a game."
"It is a great challenge to have an appreciation and a desire to want change. To want something different and better in Kenosha, Milwaukee and Wisconsin and then to go out and play a game." pic.twitter.com/BCmHZdFf1P— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
"Our team has had lots of conversations and has a high level of concern and wants to continue to fight for racial justice, for social justice, for the end of excessive use of force by police," Budenholzer said.
After the NBA announced the postponement of Wednesday night's games, the Orlando Magic issued a statement saying that the team stands "united with the NBA Office, the National Basketball Player's Association, the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the league condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police against people of color."
Blake, 29, was shot in the back by police officers on Sunday after trying to break up a fight in front of three of his children. His family said Tuesday that he has been paralyzed from the waist down.
The shooting of Blake has prompted protests in Kenosha. Two people were killed and a third was injured on Tuesday night when a gunman opened fire on demonstrators. A 17-year-old was arrested on Wednesday facing charges for the shooting.
Others NBA teams had reportedly also been having discussions about a boycott.
Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet said on Tuesday that his team had a meeting where "a number of things have been discussed."
"We knew coming here or not coming here was not going to stop anything, but I think ultimately playing or not playing puts pressure on somebody," he said.
"So, for example," he added, "this happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, if I'm correct? Would it be nice if, in a perfect world, we all say we're not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks — that's going to trickle down. If he steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney's office, and state's attorney, and governors, and politicians there to make real change and get some justice."
"I know it's not that simple," VanVleet said, according to NBA.com. "But, at the end of the day, if we're gonna sit here and talk about making change, then at some point we're gonna have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose, rather than just money or visibility."
The WNBA also postponed Wednesday's games, and players from the Mystics, Dream, Lynx, Sun, Mercury and Sparks kneeled on the court wearing shirts that spelled out Jacob Blake's name.
Ben Crump, the attorney representing Blake's family, said Wednesday that the boycott was a "powerful statement."
"Athletes and celebrities have powerful voices, and when they raise those voices to amplify today's greatest issues, they help us speak truth to power and motivate the positive change we want to see in our world," Crump said in a statement shared on Twitter.
Crump added that the Bucks' decision not to play "sends a clear message that they won't continue performing for America's entertainment until this ultimate weight is removed from their hearts and minds, insisting on an end to the open season on Black Americans."
"Athletes like these committed players will lead the way to real change," he added.
Following the NBA and WNBA's decision, several more sports leagues and athletes announced they would be following suit.
Several Major League Baseball players also refused to play in games scheduled for Wednesday night.
"The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game," the two teams said in a joint statement, per USA Today. "With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression."
The game between the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners as well as the game between Los Angeles Dodgers and San Fransisco Giants were also postponed, USA Today reported.
Several other players opted not to play Wednesday as their teams carried on, including Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward; St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty and outfielder Dexter Fowler; and Colorado Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp, USA Today reported.
"I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel," Kemp wrote on Instagram. "I will be protesting tonight's game in honor of all of my fallen brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality."
Major League Soccer announced that the five matches remaining on Wednesday's schedule would be rescheduled.
The Portland Timbers, who had been scheduled to face off against the San Jose Quakes, said in a statement that it stands "in support of our players and their decision not to play tonight. Racial injustice and police brutality towards Black people in our country must end now."
"Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman," Osaka, 22, wrote. "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."
"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," she continued. "Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach. I'm exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I'm extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again. When will it ever be enough? #JacobBlake, #BreonnaTaylor, #ElijahMcClain, #GeorgeFloyd."
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.