fb-pixelNBA players are fed up with seeing Black people shot — so they’re taking the game away from a country that may not deserve it - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

NBA players are fed up with seeing Black people shot — so they’re taking the game away from a country that may not deserve it

The benches and court were empty Wednesday after NBA players boycotted three playoff games.Kevin C. Cox/Getty

The latest: NBA players agree to resume season, but Celtics will not play Raptors on Thursday

ORLANDO — Three days after the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisc., police, NBA players made the bold and unprecedented move of boycotting three playoff games Wednesday.

The players, including many members of the Celtics, discussed whether to abandon the NBA season and return home. ESPN reported Wednesday night that the players will continue to meet Thursday to discuss further action, and ESPN said Thursday’s games, including Game 1 of the Celtics-Raptors series, is in doubt, as is the season.


Several NBA players and coaches have expressed anger over the incident with Blake, a Black man shot multiple times in the back while attempting to enter his vehicle. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his father, and protests have engulfed Kenosha.

The WNBA followed suit and decided not to play games Wednesday as did the Milwaukee Brewers.

There were no games in the NBA bubble on Wednesday.Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

For NBA players, who were horrified and furious over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, Blake’s shooting was just another case of Black people being brutalized by police. Although NBA players have been able to relay their messages through media sessions, such as justice for Breonna Taylor, urging younger people to vote, wearing racial justice slogans on their jerseys and kneeling during the national anthem, the Blake shooting was more evidence that perhaps the players weren’t doing enough regarding the current state of racial injustice in America.

Toronto guard Fred VanVleet was the first to hint at boycotts when addressing the media Tuesday. Guard Marcus Smart said a boycott had also been discussed among the Celtics.

But those threats became serious when the Milwaukee Bucks, scheduled to play at 4 p.m. against the Orlando Magic at AdventHealth Arena, refused to take the floor and the Magic players then retreated back to the locker room.


An hour later, the NBA announced that all three games were “postponed.” And there were no updates on Thursday’s games, including the Celtics-Raptors Eastern Conference semifinal matchup. But the Celtics players made it clear they were considering not playing as a matter of principle.

According to an NBA source, the Celtics staff called a meeting late Wednesday to discuss the issues and consider not playing Game 1 Thursday.

Many players believe they are being used as a form of entertainment for a sports-starved country that has been suffering during a pandemic.

“We’re in a bubble,” Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum said. “As much as we would love to go back to our communities and stand with our people, we’re in this bubble and we’re isolated from everybody else and I think that’s very frustrating. A lot of players have voiced that. I know some guys have talked about going home.

“A lot of things are bigger than basketball. We understand that. We’re people first and foremost. We’re not just basketball players. The feeling of being isolated from the outside world, that’s kind of how I feel right now and I know a lot of guys feel the same way.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures and NBA players believe while they were doing something to speak to the masses, they haven’t been doing enough. The George Floyd murder and the subsequent protests helped awaken younger NBA players to the society around them and the issues that continue to persist despite eight years of having a Black a president.


While an argument can be made that players such as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning Most Valuable Player, live lavish lives and are not exposed to the issues of the common man, many players have never forgotten their working-class roots or past incidents with the police department, or family members and friends still dealing with these issues.

“WE DEMAND CHANGE,” James said on Twitter, writing in all caps. “SICK OF IT.”

It’s not fair to place these men in a category above societal problems because of their wealth. They find that type of thinking offensive.

After watching the video of Blake being shot, the players collectively have decided to exert their power, a power that they haven’t exercised before. No NBA game has been boycotted because of a social issue. This proves they are not robots. They are not programmed to play sports at a high level without any consideration for the world around them.

They are not here for our thrills. They are not here for our satisfaction.

What’s next? We will find out in the next few days. There are players that truly want to go home, tired of the confinements and the helpless feeling as these types of incidents with police happen in cities all over the country. They are tired of watching Black people being shot while their white counterparts are apprehended without incident.


So it was time to take an unprecedented step, take the game away from a country that might not deserve it. Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers was in tears Tuesday when he asked why America hates Black people. And players who are young enough to be his son are asking the same question.

They don’t feel loved. They only feel adored because of their basketball prowess. So they decided to take that luxury away, hoping it will have a great impact on our country.

Kudos to their courage for this decision.

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him @GwashburnGlobe.