The Orlando bubble was never meant to be a distraction. In fact, it was supposed to be a vehicle for change.
But on the heels of police shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisc., the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic. After the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly were set to boycott their game as well and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers were set to follow suit, the NBA later announced that all three games officially were postponed.
This isn’t the first time that the Bucks have taken a stand against social injustice in their community. As a franchise, they partnered with the Kings for “Team Up for Change” after both communities were rocked by protests following officer-involved incidents of Black men in their communities.
Like everyone else, the Kings are in the midst of watching this play out in real time. While they are no longer part of the bubble, they are a strong advocate of social change in a league that has championed this issue.
They sent the following message via Twitter in support of their partners in Milwaukee.
Later Wednesday, Kings chairman and CEO Vivek Ranadivé released the following statement on behalf of the Kings
The Kings played two games during the 2017-18 season while protesters surrounded Golden 1 Center after the shooting death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark in March of 2018.
In May of 2018, Sterling Brown, a small forward for the Bucks, was tased and arrested in Milwaukee over a parking violation. Brown currently still plays for the Bucks and is in the Orlando bubble with his teammates.
Following these two events, the Kings and Bucks partnered together with the hopes of making an impact in their community with the “aims to unite, inspire and activate community leaders, law enforcement and youth advocates from Sacramento and Milwaukee by highlighting local and national perspectives from innovators and trusted experts who are advocates for social justice and equality.”
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, after their boycott, the Bucks got on the phone with Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul and Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes to discuss the events surrounding the shooting of Blake.
Players have donated large sums of money. They have worn social justice statements on their uniforms. They have spoken out about injustices and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
And now NBA players are being reminded that change doesn’t happen overnight, regardless of how much they and so many others want it to.
The players made it clear coming into the bubble that their commitment to social change was always going to be bigger than basketball and that they would not allow the games to slow the momentum building around America with regards to social and racial equality.
They are now backing up their words with more action, which could leave the remainder of the NBA season in peril.