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NBA halts playoffs after Bucks lead shooting boycott

For the Milwaukee Bucks, there are far more important matters than winning an NBA playoff series.

On the verge of eliminating the Orlando Magic in the first round, the Bucks decided to boycott Game 5 of their Eastern Conference duel in an apparent protest to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Without explanation, the Bucks remained at their locker room and did not appear on the court in time to face the Magic on Wednesday, August 26 (Thursday, August 27, Manila time).

Meanwhile, the Magic arrived on the court but eventually left.

Talks of refusing to play have been publicized after Nick Nurse confirmed the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics have considered boycotting Game 1 of their second round series to "demand a little more attention."

As it turned out, the Bucks became the first team to push through with the boycott, seemingly because they are the nearest NBA team to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Blake was shot.

Videos showed Blake – a black man – entering his car where his 3 children were seated when a white police officer shot him several times.

Blake survived but suffered serious damage to his internal organs and is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

The boycott had been brewing since the news of police senselessly shooting Blake broke, with Bucks guard George Hill saying they should not have come to the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida.

"Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are," Hill said.

Numerous NBA players expressed their support to the boycott.

On Twitter, Lakers star LeBron James said "we demand change" while San Antonio Spurs ace DeMar DeRozan said whoever does not understand the fight against social injustice is a "part of the problem."

Atlanta Hawks stalwart Trae Young said he is proud to be part of the NBA "even more today."

With the Bucks' boycott, the NBA announced Game 5s of the Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder series also slated on Wednesday will be rescheduled.

"The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association 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... have been postponed," a league statement said.

The postponements marked a dramatic escalation in the NBA's fight for racial equality, which has swept through the league in the months since the killing of unarmed African-American man George Floyd by police in Minneapolis in May.

'Horrifying, maddening'

The NBA's coronavirus-halted season resumed last month in Orlando against the backdrop of nationwide protests following Floyd's death.

NBA teams have knelt in protest during the pregame playing of the US national anthem while the words "Black Lives Matter" have been painted onto each court staging games in Florida.

Players have been allowed to wear jerseys bearing social justice messages.

Some players had also expressed reluctance to restarting the season given the tumultuous events that unfolded in all 50 US states after Floyd's death.

Blake's shooting was greeted with disgust by players and coaches across the league.

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Blake's shooting, captured on video, was "horrifying."

"We talked about it in our team meeting," Stevens said on Wednesday. 

"Our thoughts are with Jacob Blake and his family and obviously that video was horrifying, awful. To think of three kids being in that car. It's ridiculous.

"Everybody is shaken... there's a reason why the coaches, players and everyone here has chosen to emphasize social justice and equality.

"These are hard times. With the pandemic going on, with this constant wave of inequality – it's maddening."

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers contrasted the latest shooting with the fearful rhetoric at this week's Republican Party convention.

"All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear," Rivers said.

"We're the ones getting killed. We're the ones getting shot. We're the ones that are denied to live in certain communities.

"We've been hung, we've been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It's amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back."

Rivers said the video showed the need for police to be reformed.

"If you watch that video, you don't need to be black to be outraged," Rivers said.

"You need to be American and outraged. How dare the Republicans talk about fear? We're the ones that need to be scared. 

"We're the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It's just ridiculous." – With a report from Agence France-Presse

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.