[News] After the Bucks took a stand on racial injustice, the entire NBA shut down for the day
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 27 11:03:47 EDT 2020
the Bucks took a stand on racial injustice, the entire NBA shut down for
Matt Velazquez <https://www.jsonline.com/staff/2646772001/matt-velazquez/>
- August 26, 2020
[image: Referees stand on an empty court before the start of a scheduled
game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic for Game 5.]
The Orlando Magic was on the court warming up. The referees were there,
too. As the clock ticked down toward Game 5 of a first-round playoff series
scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday, though, the Milwaukee Bucks were nowhere to
There's no doubt the Bucks were in the building. Brook Lopez and D.J.
Wilson were photographed entering wearing shirts that read, "Black
Excellence." Pat Connaughton was sporting a T-shirt with the handwritten
words, "Protect Kids Not Guns" while the back of George Hill's shirt
featured the message: "Change the Narrative."
As it turns out, they were together in the locker room with no plan to come
out. Indeed, they were intent on changing the narrative.
Unbeknownst to anyone outside their locker room, the Bucks had collectively
made the decision not to play Wednesday's game in light of the shooting of
Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who on Sunday was shot seven times in
the back by police in Kenosha.
While staying in their locker room for more than three hours, the Bucks
spent time on a conference call with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul
and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, according to an ESPN report and confirmed
by the Journal Sentinel. The team's goal in those conversations was to
learn more about the situation and process as well as to discern meaningful
steps they could take.
*RELATED:* Brewers follow Bucks in deciding not to play
When the Bucks emerged from their locker room, they did so as a united
front, offering a statement they had crafted together. Hill, who together
with Sterling Brown delivered the statement, explained that the process had
taken such a long time because the team wanted to take time to brainstorm,
educate themselves and avoid speaking with raw emotion.
The statement they made was as follows:
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices
facing our African American communities. 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 protestors.
Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our
focus today cannot be on basketball.
“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are
expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other
accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are
demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held
accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State
Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful
measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal
justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take
peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”
Following that statement, the Bucks left without taking any questions.
However, long before that statement came, their first-of-its-kind decision
not to play on Wednesday in Game 5 of a playoff series in which they led,
3-1, had already spoken volumes and set off a domino effect that spread
through the NBA, WNBA and Major League Baseball as players began to opt out
of other games, including the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ultimately, in light of the Bucks' decision, the NBA chose to postpone all
three games scheduled for Wednesday. That being the case, the NBA had been
backed into a corner. Its players, in solidarity with the Bucks, weren't
going to play anyway and the Magic, which hadn't know about the Bucks'
protest, weren't going to accept a forfeit. The games weren't going to
happen whether the NBA postponed them or not.
With their choice, the Bucks caused an unprecedented work stoppage in the
NBA – in a season already defined by an unprecedented work stoppage due to
coronavirus – one that may continue as players from the remaining playoff
teams meet to determine what action to take next. The NBA's Board of
Governors will reportedly hold a special meeting Thursday morning.
Milwaukee's decision not to take the court came a day after the Bucks held
a team meeting to discuss the events of the previous couple of days. During
that talk, Bucks guard Wesley Matthews and assistant coaches Darvin Ham and
Vin Baker were among the people who made impassioned speeches.
The take-home message from that session was that, to them, nothing was more
important than advancing the causes of social justice, racial justice and
ending the preponderance of police violence.
"I don’t think it’s a distraction because it’s where our focus should be,"
Bucks center Lopez said. "This issue is where our No. 1 focus should be at
the end of the day. Basketball is basketball, playoffs are playoffs,
they’re going to happen, what happens, happens, but the focus needs to be
on this issue. Day-to-day, in the long run, in the scheme of things, that’s
where the focus should be.”
The Bucks have been outspoken in the days following Blake's shooting.
Budenholzer opened his pregame media session Monday with a statement of
support for Blake and his family that also decried the continued instances
of police violence against Black people and social injustice.
After Game 4, Hill and Bucks wing Khris Middleton were even more
passionate. Hill, clearly frustrated and at times sounding hopeless, said
he, his teammates and the NBA as a whole "shouldn't even have came to this
damn place," referring to the restarted season at Walt Disney World.
"Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are," Hill
said. "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 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.”
Middleton, who was in Charleston, South Carolina, when nine Black people
were shot and killed during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church in 2015, was similarly outraged with another shooting,
virtually in his backyard, this time in Kenosha.
“I mean, I think this is why we have so many people outraged all over the
country," Middleton said. "The man was shot seven times at point-blank
range in the back. It doesn’t get any sicker than that.
"I think people are starting to see why Black people, colored people are so
afraid of police because at any time, no matter what type of position, no
matter what they did right or wrong, their first act is to shoot us. That’s
a very scary situation to be in when they’re supposed to protect us.”
It's not as if the Bucks had to look for stories of police using excessive
use of force against a Black person. Brown had his own experience with
police using excessive force when in 2018 he was tasered
and had one officer kneel on his neck and another on his ankle over a
parking violation at a Walgreens.
That incident led to multiple officers being suspended as well as a civil
rights lawsuit filed by Brown against the City of Milwaukee. In May,
Brown's lawyers motioned to throw out the city's offer
to settle the suit for $400,000. Brown also penned a letter for The
Players' Tribune, titled, "Your Money Can't Silence Me
in which he detailed the events of that night and his response to it.
As an organization, the Bucks fully threw their support behind Brown
following that incident, speaking out strongly
against the excessive use of force in that instance and countless others
that happened to individuals out of the public spotlight.
The organization's clear and unwavering support was also on display in 2015
when then-Bucks center John Henson was racially profiled
in Whitefish Bay. Middleton and fellow Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo
were both on the team when that incident occurred.
Over the past few years, the Bucks have often been at the forefront of the
NBA in addressing social injustices. From top to bottom, the organization
was in full alignment with the team's decision on Wednesday.
"We fully support our players and the decision they made," Bucks co-owners
Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan wrote in a statement. "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."
The Bucks joined with the Sacramento Kings to hold summits called, “Team Up
for Change,” each of the past two years, designed to address social
injustice in both cities and the country at large. In December, the
the Racine Correctional Institution
listen to the stories of the incarcerated individuals there in an attempt
to listen to their stories and share some moments of humanity with them by
playing basketball together.
That experience, which was unanimously described as moving and deeply
meaningful by players, coaches and staff, was part of the NBA’s “Play for
Justice” initiative and in partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition
and Represent Justice.
After the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May, numerous
Bucks players took to the streets of Milwaukee to join and support Black
Lives Matter protests. On June 7, the Bucks planned and held their own
protest march – making them the first NBA team to do so – which featured Brown
at the front of the group
with a bullhorn.
“For these white people and everybody that’s not Black to walk up the
street and say Black lives matter – if they really mean it, then
something’s gonna come out of this,” Brown said that day.
Now, the Bucks are again in a protest situation that has made waves not
just in Milwaukee or in the NBA, but across the world. Again, they're
hoping something good is going to come out of it.
When it comes to basketball, it's unclear whether this NBA season will
resume or not. This second stoppage initiated by the Bucks may prove to be
the thing that undermines the team objective the top-seeded Bucks had
carried into the Walt Disney World bubble – becoming champions.
Ironically, with their actions on Wednesday, they may have actually ensured
that will be the case in the eyes of many. By deciding to opt out of Game
5, the Milwaukee Bucks became champions for the causes of social and racial
justice and champions of reform when it comes to the issues of policing,
particularly police violence perpetuated against Black Americans.
They may have sacrificed their season, the support of some fans and their
own earnings, but it seems clear from their unified actions the Bucks
believe that trade is worthwhile.
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