The Celtics have had multiple meetings in recent days about how best to move forward and have their voices heard in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake. And forward Jayson Tatum says the matter of potentially joining the Raptors in a boycott of their conference semifinals series remains “an active discussion.”
“People are upset or angry, and we’re just trying to come together and figure out a way how we can do something,” Tatum said. “Obviously people are going to say, ‘Well, what is sitting out going to do?’ Obviously if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have. Everybody’s going to have to talk about it, continue to raise awareness. We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world, because it’s affecting us. It’s affecting everybody. We’re more than just basketball players; we’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”
On Wednesday afternoon, about two hours after the Celtics met with the media, the Bucks sat out Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Magic. The NBA announced shortly after that all three of Wednesday’s games — including Thunder-Rockets and Lakers-Trail Blazers — would be postponed. And later Wednesday, ESPN reported that not only are Thursday’s games in doubt, the season might be in jeopardy.
Blake was shot by police when trying to enter his car after police in Kenosha, Wisc., were called to the scene about a domestic disturbance. On Tuesday, the Raptors were the first team to raise the possibility of a boycott.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens on Wednesday said that in the team meetings about Blake’s shooting and the general issue of systemic racism and police brutality, his players have not indicated that they would like to sit out. But he said that they will have the backing of the organization no matter how they move forward.
“We’ve talked about how we feel,” Stevens said. “We’ve talked about just generally where everybody is. And I simply said each individual we support 110 percent. This is not easy from the standpoint of being down here and feeling like you’re in this place that you can’t leave. I totally understand anybody’s reaction to what’s going on outside of here and the desire to do more, or the desire to not play, or the desire to leave. It’s totally up to the individual and we’re here to support them.”
Tatum said the Celtics continue to have dialogue about how best to use their platforms to promote change. He said that some players have talked about potentially leaving the Orlando bubble to help in their communities, and others are considering individually boycotting games.
When the NBA restarted in Orlando last month, some players were uneasy about the games affecting the momentum of the social justice movement. From wearing “Black Lives Matter” warm-up T-shirts to kneeling during the national anthem, the players have used their voices. But now there’s a question of whether this is enough for them. The national anthem was shown on television when the players knelt for the first time, but most broadcasts have not shown it since then.
“Really, all we can hope and try to do is impact change,” forward Grant Williams said. “That’s something that we have always strived for and we started with the kneeling. We were hoping that would send a message and it sent a message, but then as that message gets pushed out, then they stopped showing us. So now it’s more so about what can we do next to not only show that we’re not only involved, but also show that we really care and that it saddens us to see nothing’s changing? And there’s something that has to happen.”
Williams and Tatum said it has been incredibly challenging to try to stay involved and active in this movement while essentially locked down in Orlando. Tatum said that’s why some players have talked about potentially leaving the bubble.
“Guys are crying, guys are hurting right now because of what’s going on,” Williams said. “You never know if that was your brother? What if it was my cousin or family member? That’s something that weighs down on you and it’s something that is very trying to the mind, and we each have to do something about it. There has to be something that we can do, there has to be some discussions, there has to be someone to take that step forward and that initiative and right now, we need that.”