Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: NBA season halted over shooting of Jacob Blake

In August, just a month after the NBA had restarted its season in a bio-secure bubble, the action stopped again over Jacob Blake's shooting. By the time the season restarted, NBA owners had committed to a series of initiatives, including using arenas as polling places.

FP Sports December 30, 2020 21:40:13 IST
Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: NBA season halted over shooting of Jacob Blake

Black Lives Matter is displayed near the NBA logo in an empty basketball arena on 28 August in Lake Buena Vista. AP Photo

Editor's Note: It's that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports' all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost's latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.

In August, just a month after the NBA had restarted its season in a bio-secure bubble at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, the action came to a grinding halt again. This time, it was not coronavirus that stopped the NBA. It was the shooting of an African-American man, Jacob Blake, in Wisconsin by policemen, who shot him from behind seven times in front of his family.

The Milwaukee Bucks set the ball rolling into motion by refusing to come on to the court for Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Round 1 Playoff series against the Orlando Magic. Things escalated fast. Within minutes of the Bucks choosing not to play, Western Conference Playoff games between the Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers for that day were called off with teams agreeing to not play as well. It didn’t take long for the NBA to announce that all of Wednesday’s games were called off and would be rescheduled.

As news spread that NBA had suspended games due to a players’ boycott, athletes in other leagues and competitions across sports started taking note as well and responded by boycotts of their own. While WNBA games were postponed, MLS and MLB matches were also cancelled. Naomi Osaka chose not to play her semi-final of the Western & Southern Open.

“I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction,” Osaka said in a tweet. “Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.”

Even when the NBA was restarting its season in July after it was stopped unceremoniously in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, players in the NBA had been grappling with the idea of playing at a time when USA was experiencing unprecedented wave of social unrest due to the shooting of African Americans like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of policemen. With the league suspended between March and July, many players had actually joined protestors to march on the streets.

This led to NBA allowing players to put social justice messages on their jerseys when the league restarted while taking the knee during the national anthem before games almost became customary for all players.

It was not surprising then that teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the title in the 2019-20 season, and the Los Angeles Clippers were among teams that actually advocated that the NBA abandon the season itself in the aftermath of the league stopping in response to the shooting of Blake.

After Bucks players’ boycott, it was reported that they spent a lot of time on the phone with Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, which then led to the state’s governor calling a special session of the State Legislature and urging lawmakers to vote on a legislative package that includes police reform.

The players only agreed to restarting the league in August after owners committed to a series of initiatives, including using NBA arenas as polling places and sharing voting information for the US Presidential elections in advertisements during the NBA Playoffs.

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