When the NBA restarted in Orlando in the midst of the surging social justice movement, there was some concern among players that the games could become a distraction and stall the momentum of the initiative. Players have worked to keep the movement in the forefront, from kneeling during the national anthem to dedicating large segments of their media sessions to raising awareness.
But some are unsure if that is enough. In the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Wisconsin, Raptors players said they held a team meeting Tuesday in which they discussed how to take further action, including the possibility of boycotting their conference semifinals series against the Celtics.
“We knew coming here or not coming here was not going to stop anything,” Toronto guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I think ultimately playing or not playing puts pressure on somebody.”
When asked about the Raptors’ comments, Marcus Smart said the Celtics could consider a similar path.
“It’s been talked about,” he said. “We aren’t really sure. We haven’t confirmed anything, but it’s definitely something in the back of our minds. It’s something that — something needs to change. Like I said, it’s more important than basketball right now. It’s definitely a thought and we have to talk more with each other and try to get on the same page.”
Jaylen Brown said the Celtics had not discussed a potential boycott, but he indicated it could be a topic of discussion in the coming days.
“Those emotions are real,” Brown said. “That is real. Yes, we’re athletes. Yes, we’re being paid to play a sport that we love. But we are human beings, members of our community. We are fathers, uncles, nephews, brothers, etc. So all those emotions are real and I don’t really have a lot to say. I’m just happy by the grace of God that Jacob Blake is still alive, because the police who shot him, that wasn’t their intention. They shot him to kill him, and that’s a problem in this country. There’s a million different ways you could have dissolved that situation and your thought was to kill him. That was the best method.”
Blake, who is Black, was shot by police when trying to enter his car after police in Kenosha, Wis., were called about a domestic disturbance. He survived the shooting, but his father said he has been paralyzed below the waist.
Brown, who led a peaceful protest in Georgia before the NBA’s restart, was visibly upset Tuesday as he spoke about his sadness and frustration following this latest shooting.
“Are we not human beings?” he asked. “Is Jacob Blake not a human being? I don’t care if he did something 10 years ago, 10 days ago, or 10 minutes ago. If he served his sentence and he was released back into society, he still deserves to be treated like a human and does not deserve to be shot in the back seven times with the intent to kill. His kids will never unsee that. His family will never unsee that. And frankly, I will never unsee it.”
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals is scheduled for Thursday night.