Boycott, postponement of matches… return to play? This is what the National Basketball Association (NBA) hoped for, after invoking, Thursday, August 27, a sacred union between leaders and players to achieve the end of the season, despite the anger resulting from the Jacob Blake affair.
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their game against the Orlando Magic; they were followed by other NBA teams, but also football, by the Cincinnati tennis tournament, then, Thursday, by the ice hockey league (NHL).
Nothing really filtered out of the long conference call that took place for several hours Thursday afternoon, involving a group of players, representatives of their union (NBPA), the executives and owners of the thirteen teams still in contention. Orlando. The instance – who had said in the morning “Hope to resume the game on Friday or Saturday” – did not make an announcement after the meeting. According to ESPN TV channel, it should be done on Saturday instead.
“Going from words to deeds”
For now, six meetings have been postponed by the body, after the Milwaukee Bucks players boycotted theirs on Wednesday. The Houston-Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Lakers-Portland games were not played that day, Clippers-Dallas, Denver-Utah and Toronto-Boston did not take place Thursday.
According to the site The Athletic, the players urged the owners to be “More proactive, not reactive” in the fight against racial injustice, calling on them to “Go from words to deeds”. Michael Jordan was present as chairman of the player-owner relations committee. A role of mediator all the more legitimate since, in addition to his status as a living legend of this sport, he is the only black to have a franchise, that of the Charlotte Hornets. His voice therefore carries on both sides.
The Lakers and Clippers, two of the main favorites for the league title, had voted to stop the season, unlike the other eleven teams. Have they changed their minds? Did they line up behind the collective vote? How can the NBA convince them to replay? So many questions illustrating how the coming hours will be decisive for the fate of a season already turned upside down by the coronavirus, which forced the league to interrupt it for five months before resuming it by calling twenty-two of its teams in the airtight bubble of Disney World in Florida.
New immeasurable shock
In May, the ordeal of George Floyd, who died during his arrest by the police in Minneapolis (Minnesota), had already upset the stars of the orange ball, some, like Kyrie Irving, of the Brooklyn Nets, believing that it should not be resume the championship, precisely to act better against the scourge of police violence.
The overwhelming majority of players, admittedly hesitant at times, had chosen to join Florida for the playoffs and the NBA had made sure to allow them to be proactive in their fight, by allowing the knee to be placed on the ground for the national anthem, by posting “Black Lives Matter” on the floors, and giving them the floor to demand justice.
But the terrible fate of Jacob Blake, 29-year-old African-American, seriously injured during his arrest in Kenosha (Wisconsin) has caused yet another immeasurable shock. “Change doesn’t happen just by talking! It happens through action and must happen NOW! (…) It’s up to the United States to make the difference. Together. This is why your vote is “More than a vote”. Black Lives Matter ”, at tweeted Thursday Lakers star LeBron James.
“I don’t know much about the protests within the NBA. I know his ratings are very bad because I think people are fed up with the NBA. They have become a bit like a political organization and that is not a good thing ”, for his part commented the US President, Donald Trump, about the boycott of basketball players.
Basketball, baseball, football, tennis and hockey mobilized
The National Ice Hockey League (NHL) has also decided to postpone the playoff games scheduled for Thursday and Friday, in protest. “After long discussions, the NHL players believe that the best solution would be to take a step back and not play the games of this [jeudi] evening and Friday as planned. The NHL supports the players’ decision and will reschedule these four games from Saturday and adjust the rest of the schedule accordingly ”, explains the press release of the instance.
The Brewers’ Professional League Baseball (MLB) club – like the Bucks in Milwaukee, about fifty kilometers from Kenosha – also refused to play against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday. Two other MLB games have been postponed. In the professional football league (MLS), five of the six meetings on the program were boycotted by the players.
Then, after the Japanese Naomi Osaka decided not to play her semi-final of the Cincinnati tournament, relocated to New York, the organizers of the event had in turn decided to postpone the matches scheduled for Thursday until Friday. “Tennis collectively takes a stand against the racial inequality and social injustice that once again has come to the fore in the United States. The American Tennis Federation (USTA), the ATP and WTA circuits have decided to recognize this moment by stopping play ”, they said.
“As a black woman, I feel like there are much more important issues that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis,” justified the young woman of 22 years, born of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, and who has often spoken in recent months to denounce racial injustice.