Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more explosive. No one was expecting any drama from Wednesday’s Eastern Conference Game 5 between the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks (hence the league burying it on NBATV’s forgotten afternoon slate). But instead the Bucks, who hail from the same state where Jacob Blake was shot seven times by Kenosha, Wisconsin police earlier this week, became a symbol of resistance against a broken system, refusing to take the floor ahead of Wednesday’s anticipated 4:10 PM ET start at the Walt Disney Resort in Orlando.
Once the Magic surmised the Bucks—who sported the NBA’s best regular-season record—were boycotting the game in protest of continued police brutality and mistreatment of African Americans, they left the court as well, retreating to the locker room as equipment staff removed ball racks, towels and other items in a surreal scene at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. The other playoff teams scheduled to compete—that included the Rockets, Thunder, Lakers and Trail Blazers—quickly followed suit, joining the Bucks’ boycott as the NBA eventually moved to scrap its entire Wednesday slate. In recognition of Milwaukee’s courageous gesture, the Magic chose not to accept the Bucks’ forfeit that would have granted them a Game 5 victory.
This unprecedented chain of events—never before have we seen a team elect not to play (in a playoff game, no less) minutes before opening tip, in an effort to bring awareness to a social justice cause—has predictably been the talk of Twitter with reaction pouring in from all sectors. The Bucks’ noble stand has elicited praise from many including NBA guards Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, who both took to social media to express their support for Milwaukee’s movement.
Current Detroit Piston John Henson, who spent his first NBA six seasons in Milwaukee, shared a similar sentiment, lauding the Bucks for their boycott of Wednesday’s game.
Houston Texans receiver Kenny Stills, who has been one of the more vocal athletes on matters of racial equality and social justice, also lent his support to the Bucks’ movement, as did ESPN analyst and former NBA guard Jalen Rose.
Atlanta Hawks All-Star Trae Young voiced his opinion on Wednesday's landmark boycott, commending his fellow players for putting action behind their words. San Antonio’s DeMar DeRozan also shouted out the Bucks while acknowledging that fighting for what’s right will always take precedence over basketball.
Los Angeles Dodgers star David Price, who made the difficult decision not to partake in MLB’s 2020 season amid concern over the coronavirus, hailed the Bucks for their strong stance against Jacob Blake’s senseless shooting and other occurrences of police violence against African Americans.
The Boston Celtics who, along with the Toronto Raptors (their Round 2 opponent), are expected to boycott tomorrow’s series opener, tweeted the hashtag #JusticeForJacobBlake while sharing contact information for both the mayor and district attorney of Kenosha.
Bucks owner Alex Lasry also offered words of encouragement, saluting his team for calling attention to the tragedy in Kenosha while doing its part to bring about meaningful change in a society that seems to have lost its moral compass.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, in a statement to KRLD-FM in Dallas, said: "Of course I would support my team. A lot of things in life are more important than basketball. And I’ll support action items NBA players put in place to try to effect change."
A handful of other teams and notable people in the sports world also had strong feelings: