After a three-day break in play, the NBA playoffs will resume on Saturday, the league announced on Friday. A revised playoff schedule should be released at some point today.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, along with NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts, have released a joint statement, outlining some important next steps with regards to social justice and racial inequality.
A “candid, impassioned, and productive conversation” was held between players, coaches, and team governors on Thursday, according to the joint statement. Player and team representatives for the remaining 13 teams competing in Orlando were present, with all parties agreeing to resume playoff games on Saturday.
The league and its players have made a number of commitments to help ensure that their protest goes beyond a symbolic gesture, with three actionable items announced:
1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.
3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.
“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community,” the NBA and NBPA added.
The joint statement went on to call this a “push for meaningful and sustainable change,” which is exactly what the players want to see.
LeBron James walked out of Wednesday’s players-only meeting, reportedly because he wanted actions beyond a symbolic gesture. At one point, LeBron’s LA Lakers, along with the LA Clippers, were in favour of scrapping the playoffs entirely, according to multiple reports.
Sources: LeBron James walked out of Wednesday’s players meeting because he supported Bucks, supported boycott, but there was no plan. For James, actions and outcomes mattered most; otherwise why do this? He became comfortable to play once NBPA mapped out purpose and plans.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 28, 2020
The NBA has backed its players during the protests, with Silver saying in an open letter to league employees: “I wholeheartedly support NBA and WNBA players and their commitment to shining a light on important issues of social justice. While I don’t walk in the same shoes as Black men and women, I can see the trauma and fear that racialized violence causes and how it continues the painful legacy of racial inequity that persists in our country.”
NBA referees showed their support for the players by marching in the Orlando bubble on Thursday.
Our march this morning demonstrates our solidarity with the NBA players, teams and the Black community. We believe larger conversations both inside and outside the league are necessary and warranted now more than ever. #EverybodyVsRacism @NBA @TheNBPA (pc: NBA Entertainment) pic.twitter.com/GDfu2HFq6n
— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) August 27, 2020
“The march this morning was impactful. We recognized yesterday evening that our players and our society is in pain and that they wanted to do something… It’s not right versus left, it’s right versus wrong,” said NBA referee Marc Davis in an interview with NBA TV.
“Although we are in a bubble now, physically, our minds are not in a bubble. And our minds and our hearts and our spirits are with our communities as we try to fight for change.”
Many players were visibly upset and have spoken out following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. An unarmed Black man, video surfaced of Blake being shot in the back seven times by police in Wisconsin.
“What are we willing to give up?” asked Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet on Tuesday. “Do we actually give a fuck about what’s going on? Or is it just cool to wear Black Lives Matter on the backdrop or wear a T-shirt? Like, what does that really mean? Is it really doing anything?”
The Milwaukee Bucks walked off the court on Wednesday, setting off a chain reaction that saw all games in the NBA postponed for three days. Other major pro sports leagues have since followed suit, as games have been postponed in the WNBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS.