It was unlikely that games would be played Thursday after the Milwaukee Bucks set off a wave of action with their decision to sit out their playoff game on Wednesday afternoon.
The NBA players met Thursday morning to discuss their response following Wednesday’s opt-outs. Many players are angered over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was struck seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisc. Kenosha is less than an hour from Milwaukee.
Players on two teams – the Lakers and the Clippers – indicated Wednesday night that they would be in favor of ending the season. According to Yahoo Sports, those players, including star LeBron James, changed their position, saying it was “in their best interest to finish out the season.”
The NBA’s Board of Governors also met on Thursday to discuss the next steps. Another meeting is scheduled for later Thursday, according to ESPN, that will have player representatives from each team in attendance, in addition to team owners.
According to the Athletic, the players want to find “new and improved ways to make social justice statements” as they continue postseason play within the bubble.
Players have had the opportunity to put social justice phrases on the backs of their jerseys, an agreement they came to with the league before the season restarted.
Celtics star Jaylen Brown has been sporting “Liberation” on his jersey; Jayson Tatum’s reads “Black Lives Matter.” Players have used their platform with the media to push initiatives, like when Marcus Smart answered every question with the phrase “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” the Louisville woman killed by police in her home.
The Globe was told Brown played an active role in the all-NBA players meeting on Wednesday. He reportedly challenged players in the meeting, saying that they’d be wasting their time if the players opt to end the season and leave the bubble but don’t take to the streets and demand justice.
NBA referees held a march against racism within the bubble on Thursday morning in support of the players’ strike.
NBA referees are assembling to begin marching around the campus in support of the players who took a stand last night. “We’re here because we feel like our group is a representation of America, or what America could be. … This is not right vs left, this is right vs wrong.” pic.twitter.com/2yU5FIeyDO
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) August 27, 2020
In addition to Game 1 of the Celtics-Raptors series, the Nuggets and Jazz were scheduled to tip off their Game 6 matchup at 4 p.m.; the Clippers and Mavericks at 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence said on CNN Thursday that the NBA protests were “absurd.”
When asked if Pence supports the NBA players’ strike, he said: “I don’t know that you’re going to see the administration weigh in on that one way or the other. In my mind, it’s absurd, it’s silly.”
He followed up by saying: “If they want to protest, I don’t think we care.”
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, told CNBC Thursday morning that it’s “great” that NBA players have “that luxury” to “take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially.”
Politico is reporting that Kushner said he will reach out to James, who has voiced his opposition to the Trump presidency, and that he’d “like to see them start moving into concrete solutions that are productive.”
Jared Kushner says he’ll reach out to @KingJames today.
“What I’d love to see from the players in the NBA–again they have the luxury of taking a night off from work, most Americans don’t…I’d like to see them start moving into concrete solutions that are productive.” @politico
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 27, 2020
This story will be updated.
Gary Washburn contributed reporting.