NBA playoff matches set to resume on Saturday as league vows more social support

The Associated Press August 29, 2020 10:15:40 IST
NBA playoff matches set to resume on Saturday as league vows more social support

Washington: NBA playoff games will resume on Saturday after the league and players agreed Friday on plans for greater social justice and racial equality measures following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said in a joint statement that "All parties agreed to resume NBA playoff games on Saturday."

"We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together -– in Orlando and in all NBA team markets -– to push for meaningful and sustainable change," the NBA/NBPA statement said.

Players and the league agreed to form a social justice coalition to address a broad range of issues including access to voting, promoting civic engagement and police and criminal justice reform.

Among the initiatives agreed on, in cities where an NBA team owns and controls its own arena, team owners will work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 US general election, allowing safe in-person voting options in communities fearful of COVID-19 .

If that option won't work, NBA team owners will try to find another election-related use for the arena, such as for voter registration or ballot counting.

The announcement came on a third day of postponed NBA playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court Wednesday for a scheduled Eastern Conference first-round matchup against Orlando in the COVID-19 quarantine bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The move led to postponements in support of social justice in Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the Women's NBA and the National Hockey League and tennis.

Saturday's NBA playoff games include Milwaukee against Orlando, Oklahoma City against Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers against Portland.

As all 13 teams in Orlando resumed practice on Friday, almost 100 NBA employees across departments staged a one-day walkout in solidarity with players, USA Today reported.

Oklahoma City star point guard Chris Paul, president of the players union since 2013, said the solidarity shown by players was unprecedented in his experience.

"Fifteen years in this league and I've never seen anything like it," Paul said of the hours of meetings in which players voiced their feelings and sought ways to use their public platform to battle racism and inequality in the wider world. "The voices that were heard, I'll never forget it."

Players pushed NBA club owners to undertake broader measures for social change, frustrated by video of Blake, a black man, being shot in the back seven times by a policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he tried to get into a car where his three children were seated.

Paul choked up as he told reporters about speaking with Blake's father, and said NBA players, the majority of whom are black, were exhausted as similar stories continue to surface in the United States, where the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May sparked protests across the nation and beyond.

"We're all tired of just seeing the same thing over and over again," he said. "And everybody just expects us to be OK because we get paid great money."

Ultimately, Paul said, players realised continuing the season would give them greater visibility as they press for change.

"We're going to continue to play but we're also going to continue to make sure our voices are heard."

A moment to breathe

Silver had told league employees the measures were coming as he expressed full support for the players' walkout.

"I wholeheartedly support NBA and WNBA players and their commitment to shining a light on important issues of social justice," Silver wrote in an open letter to NBA employees posted on the league's website.

"While I don't walk in the same shoes as Black men and women, I can see the trauma and fear that racialised violence causes and how it continues the painful legacy of racial inequity that persists in our country."

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that despite the emotionally charged atmosphere, meetings between players and owners weren't contentious.

"The players and the owners are partners," Rivers said. "Adam and the owners were on board with most of it or all of it. And even the things that they didn't come to an agreement on, they discussed.

"The key to this thing is we all needed to take a breath," Rivers said. "We needed a moment to breathe. It's not lost on me that George Floyd didn't get that moment.

"But we did. And we took it. And the players took it. And they got to refocus on the things they wanted to focus on outside of their jobs."

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