NBA playoff games were cancelled for a second straight day on Thursday, but players pledged to return to the court as they sought support from team owners in tackling racial injustice.
A Milwaukee Bucks boycott inside the NBA’s Orlando “bubble” on Wednesday sparked a wave of protest that ultimately saw dozens of games called off across an array of sports — basketball, football, baseball, ice hockey and tennis.
Black players, their teammates and supporters demanded action in the face of yet another police shooting of an African American after Jacob Blake was shot several times in the back in the Midwestern city of Kenosha on Sunday.
The Bucks boycott, which was joined by their scheduled opponents the Orlando Magic, prompted the NBA to postpone all three playoff games scheduled for Wednesday and three more slated for Thursday as players from all teams debated whether to continue the season already disrupted by coronavirus.
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Players agreed on Thursday to continue the playoffs, with LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers — who had been in favour Wednesday night of abandoning the season — reportedly “on board” with the decision.
“NBA playoff games for (Thursday) will not be played as scheduled,” league executive vice-president Mike Bass said in a statement after an NBA Board of Governors meeting Thursday.
“We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday.”
ESPN and other US media reported late Thursday that games would most likely resume on Saturday.
Players from all 13 teams in Orlando, along with representatives from the National Basketball Players Association, the league office and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chairman and basketball legend Michael Jordan met Thursday to discuss player concerns.
Details of the meeting were not immediately available, but ESPN reported that players pushed for owners to join them in a “direct action plan” to promote voter turnout, police accountability and police reform legislation.
Meanwhile, the NBA’s stoppage continued to ripple through the sports world.
The National Hockey League, which didn’t postpone games on Wednesday, called off games in its quarantine bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton on Thursday and Friday.
“We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment,” the league and its players’ association said in a statement.
“We pledge to work to use our sport to influence positive change in society.”
Seven Major League Baseball games were called off on Thursday and nine NFL teams cancelled practice with the start of their season just two weeks away.
The courts were quiet at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, although two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka agreed to go ahead with her Western & Southern Open semi-final on Friday after initially saying she was pulling out of the event.
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“I was (and am) ready and prepared to concede the match to my opponent,” Osaka said. “However, after my announcement and lengthy consultation with the WTA and USTA, I have agreed at their request to play on Friday.”
“They offered to postpone all matches until Friday and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement.”
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