The Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to protest in place of Game 5 of their first-round series with the Orlando Magic is a swift reminder of why the NBA returned.
Black Lives Matter.
The phrase is plastered across each court floor that NBA teams have competed on since the 2019-20 NBA season resumed in Orlando, FL. To some, it felt like an empty statement made by a league simply trying to recoup revenue. Perhaps that was the case for some, but for the Milwaukee Bucks players, it’s an undeniable truth. Today, by protesting Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Bucks doubled down on the most important aspect of the NBA restart: Using their platform to illuminate the issues that plague the black community in the United States.
Rumblings began on Wednesday afternoon as the Orlando Magic took the court in preparation for their fifth meeting with the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, only to find out that their opponents hadn’t shown up to shootaround. It quickly became evident that the Bucks had no intention of taking the court floor. Instead, they boycotted their game in solidarity with 29-year-old Jacob Blake, who was paralyzed by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin just days ago.
The city of Kenosha was not a household name for many in this country before now. It recently became the center of national attention after a video was released of Wisconsin police shooting Blake, an unarmed black man, seven times in the back with his three children in his vehicle.
Over the course of this NBA restart and for years prior, the Milwaukee Bucks have been at the forefront of social justice discourse. One of their own players, Sterling Brown, was the victim of police brutality by Wisconsin police just two short years ago and remains locked in legal conflict. This Bucks team, which remains primed for a run at the NBA title, isn’t concerned with finishing off their 3-1 lead against the Magic so long as Black people continue to be murdered in cold blood by those employed to protect and serve.
Professional sports are ultimately about entertainment and when more pressing issues come into play, these players have refused to place their entertainment on the table. That’s exactly the chain reaction that the Milwaukee Bucks have set into motion with this protest. Taking action and stripping the world of the entertainment value they provide is the Bucks players’ way of forcing NBA fans and the United States as a whole to look at these issues first-hand.
Whether or not NBA basketball returns today, tomorrow or any time in the near future is yet to be determined. For as much as you probably enjoy basketball if you’re reading this now, chances are you don’t love it as much as those who have made it their livelihood like these Bucks players. In times like these, taking a stand and fighting for what’s right is more important than putting a ball in a hoop.
All it took was one team to make this decision for the dominoes to start falling. It’s only right that the team that had a man paralyzed in their backyard is the one that made the first call.
Black Lives Matter.