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.”
Notable Athletes Who Have Opted Out of 2020 Seasons Over COVID-19 Concerns (Photos)
Major U.S. professional sports like the NBA and MLB have returned (the NFL is getting started on it 2020 season), but not everyone will play over concerns of the coronavirus pandemic.
The six-time All Star catcher with the San Francisco Giants opted out of the 2020 season after he and his wife planned to adopt two identical twin girls who were, a journalist for The Athletic reported.
David Price, a pitcher formerly for the Boston Red Sox who this season was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, opted out of the season on July 4 out of the interest of the his health and his family's.
Ian Desmond, an outfielder for the Colorado Rockies, opted out in part because of his pregnant wife and four young children. It was reported that he'd be sacrificing $5.55 million in pro-rated salary for 2020.
Ryan Zimmerman, the 35-year-old first baseman for the World Series champs Washington Nationals, clarified that he would not be retiring by opting out this season. He forfeited $740,000 of pro-rated salary.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis opted out of the 2020 season after seeing his teammate Freddie Freeman contract the coronavirus and be sidelined with symptoms of COVID-19. "Just hearing him, the way he sounded on the phone, it was tough," Markakis said in a press conference. "It was kind of eye-opening. With everything that's going on, not just with baseball but all over the world, it makes you open your eyes."
(Update: Markakis pulled a surprise move on July 29 and decided to rejoin the team for the remainder of the season).
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, 32, became the first known MLB player to opt out of the 2020 season on June 29. He was scheduled to make $16 million in a full season and is a free agent in 2021.
Felix Hernandez, a longtime pitcher and All Star for the Seattle Mariners, opted out of the 2020 season on July 4. He signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves this season and was competing for a rotation spot.
Joe Ross and Tyson Ross
Joe Ross, 27, and Tyson Ross, 33, two brothers and MLB pitchers for the Washington Nationals and a free agent respectively, both signed out of the 2020 season.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks, 23, opted out of the season after being identified as a high-risk player due to his Type 1 diabetes. He's also recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Michael Kopech, 24, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, announced on July 10 through the team's general manager that he would be sitting out the 2020 season. Kopech was recovering from Tommy John surgery that kept him sidelined in 2019.
Before New York Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the season, the team was alarmed to find that Cespedes did not report to the ballpark and that he and his belongings were missing from his hotel room. The team was not made aware of his decision to opt out prior to his absence.
Stroman became the second Met to opt out in the middle of the season. Stroman never threw a pitch this season, beginning the year on the Injured List. He cited concerns over the outbreaks on the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins as his reason for sitting out.
A week into the season, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain opted out of the season after the team's home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among Cardinals players.
Cauley-Stein opted out on June 25 because he and his partner are expecting a baby in July.
Dinwiddie is one of the few players that won't be playing due to a positive COVID-19 test. On July 7 the Nets' doctors advised Dinwiddie he should not play out of an abundance of caution.
Bradley, a vocal critic of the NBA's restart taking attention away from the nationwide social justice movement, opted out on June 23 in order to remain with his wife and three children.
Chandler opted out on June 28 so he could remain with his family and grandmother.
Sefalosha opted out on July 1, though a specific reason was not given. He had previously expressed concerns over playing in the bubble amid the pandemic.
Like his teammate Dinwiddie, Jordan also will sit out the rest of the 2020 campaign after revealing he tested positive for the disease.
The Indiana Pacers star had just come back from a ruptured quad tendon before the shutdown. He cited the uncertainty of the Orlando bubble as part of his reason for opting out, but he reversed course and ultimately played in the first game for the Indiana Pacers' restart.
(Update: Oladipo joined the Pacers in Orlando and played in scrimmages, but it is still unclear if he'll be part of the season restart).
Ariza opted out June 22 in order to commit to a one-month visitation window with his young son. Families are not allowed inside the NBA bubble until the end of August.
Smith was set to play for the Baltimore Ravens this season.
Mack, an undrafted rookie with the Carolina Panthers, decided on July 28 to forgo his rookie season out of uncertainty from the virus.
The Chicago Bears defensive tackle opted out on July 28 citing health concerns.
Another undrafted rookie, this one with the Dallas Cowboys. Guirdry is one of two Cowboys to opt out, joining Maurice Canady.
Funchess is skipping his first season with the Green Bay Packers over COVID-19 concerns. He had family members that contracted the virus.
The Kansas City Chiefs' starting lineman was the first NFL player to opt out of the season. Duvernay-Tardif spent the offseason as medical volunteer at a long-term care facility in Montreal that was treating coronavirus patients.