Anyone wondering what NBA players accomplished by refusing to take the court for playoff games got their answer Friday.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced games will resume Saturday after three days of postponements stemming from the Milwaukee Bucks' — and, later, other teams' — decision not to play in the wake of police shooting Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wis.
The games will go on because the league and players committed to the following:
- Establishing a social justice coalition comprised of players, coaches and owners to address issues such as voting access, civic engagement and police and criminal justice reform
- Working with local elections officials to convert team-owned arenas into voting locations for the 2020 election
- Creating advertising spots in each playoff game promoting civic engagement
"We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation (Thursday) between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality," the joint statement issued by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said. "Among others, the attendees included player and team representatives of all 13 teams in Orlando."
The partnership between the NBA and NBPA and Silver and Roberts has been instrumental in getting the league's restart up and running on the Disney World campus in Florida. It again worked to navigate this unprecedented time, which spread to other professional sports leagues following suit. The WNBA also announced plans to resume its games Friday night.
NBA players talked about using the restart as a platform to continue fighting for racial equality and other social issues. Players are allowed to wear league-approved social justice slogans on the back of their uniforms. The courts are adorned with "Black Lives Matter."
Still, the shooting of Blake, which followed Minneapolis police officers getting charged for murder in the death of George Floyd, another Black man, served as another tipping point. The Bucks refused to take the court for their Wednesday game against the Orlando Magic and later read a team-issued statement addressing their concerns about myriad social and racial justice issues.
Voting has been at the forefront of many of these initiatives. The Bulls, Sky and White Sox already had joined "Rally the Vote," a 20-team, nonpartisan coalition led by the Sacramento Kings and comprised of franchises across the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, WNBA and NWSL. The Bulls, like other franchises, also announced plans to make Election Day a paid day off for all employees back in June.
"These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform for social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community," the joint statement from Silver and Roberts said. "We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together — in Orlando and in all NBA team markets — to push for meaningful and sustainable change."