The Raptors And Celtics Are Considering An NBA Playoffs Boycott After The Police Shooting Of Jacob Blake

Since George Floyd’s death earlier this summer, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked nationwide protests demanding social justice and police reform. Many NBA players have taken up the torch and used their voices and their influence to facilitate meaningful change.

Before the restart in Orlando, a vocal segment of the players expressed their apprehensions about resuming the season amid all the upheaval, fearing that it might divert attention away from a movement that has mobilized citizens around the country in a way we haven’t witnessed in years.

But after the latest police shooting involving an unarmed Black man, several players now fear that those concerns might be coming true. Jacob Blake, 29, was shot several times in the back by Kenosha police as he leaned on his car after trying to break up a fight. Blake survived, but his father has reportedly said that shooting left him paralyzed.

Video of the incident went viral over the weekend, reigniting outrage among protesters and prompting players around the NBA to re-evaluate whether they might have made a mistake by agreeing to resume the season in Orlando, as George Hill of the Bucks questioned in his postgame press conference on Monday. Raptors players Normal Powell and Fred VanVleet both spoke extensively about the shooting, their exasperation with having to constantly speak out without seeing change, and more during their media availability on Tuesday.

Both expressed their frustration about the lack of accountability for police officers in these cases and shared the sentiment that there is much more work to be done to affect real change. VanVleet also alluded to the idea that boycotting upcoming playoff games could put tremendous pressure on officials to take action — particularly in pushing team owners who wield significant influence both locally and nationally to use that to push for effectual change in their communities.

Jaylen Brown also delivered a stunning statement about the unjust treatment of Black people in America, issuing a powerful plea for the basic acknowledgment of their humanity.

It also emerged that some players have at least discussed the possibility of sitting out games, although there is, for now, no plan in place to do so.

“We tried to be peaceful, kneeling, we tried to protest,” Marcus Smart said, via ESPN. “And for us, we tried to come out here and get together and play this game and try to get our voice across. But it’s not working, so obviously something has to be done. Right now, our focus shouldn’t really be on basketball. I understand it’s the playoffs and everything like that, but we still have a bigger underlying issue that’s going on and the things that we’ve tried haven’t been working, so we definitely need to take a different approach and we definitely need to try new things out to get this thing working the way that we know it should and get our voices heard even more.”

The Raptors and Celtics are scheduled to kick off their second-round series on Thursday on ESPN, but there are two full nights of basketball before then, and viewers will be watching intently to find out what the players’ response will be in the wake of the latest preventable tragedy. Even just voicing the possibility of not playing might be enough to push owners to speak up, but if that doesn’t happen, players seem to be reaching the conclusion they need to do much more than wearing shirts and kneeling for the anthem.