The NBA will resume its playoffs on Saturday, following a few days of player-led boycotts to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake Jr. by a Wisconsin police officer last weekend.
In addition to the restarting of play, the NBA has agreed to set up a social justice coalition and partner on voting initiatives that include new advertising spots “dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement,” as well as to convert some NBA arenas into voting centers for Election Day.
“We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality,” the league and the players association said in a joint statement on Friday. “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.”
On Wednesday, the league postponed all three playoff games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take to court in protest of the shooting of Blake, an unarmed Black man, by a police officer. Games were also postponed Thursday and Friday.
The Bucks’ protest boycott sparked a nationwide movement among professional athletes. Multiple MLB teams postponed games over the past two days, the NHL called off its playoff games Thursday and Friday, and multiple NFL teams canceled their practice as a show of solidarity. Tennis pro Naomi Osaka said she would sit out her semifinal match of the Western and Southern Open. Following Osaka’s decision, the U.S. Tennis Association, Women’s Tennis Association and ATP Tour suspended Thursday’s tournament play. The WNBA had also postponed its games.
On Sunday, Blake was shot in the back by a police officer seven times while walking away from them after breaking up a fight. The shooting led to protests in Kenosha over another Black person being shot by police. Blake is paralyzed by the gunshot wounds, his family’s attorney told the Associated Press.
The league’s social justice coalition will consist of players, coaches and team governors that will be focused primarily on voting rights and criminal justice reform. In cities where the arena is owned by the teams themselves, they will work with local election officials to convert the buildings into voting booths for Election Day.
Read the full statement from the NBA and NBA Players Association:
“We had a candid, impassioned and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches and team governors regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality. Among others, the attendees included player and team representatives of all 13 teams in Orlando. All parties agreed to resume NBA playoff games on Saturday, Aug. 29 with the understanding that the league together with the players will work to enact the following commitments:
1. The NBA and its players have agreed to immediately establish a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.
2. In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.
3. The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include advertising spots in each NBA playoff game dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity.
“These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community.
“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.”