Boycott over: NBA playoffs to resume on Saturday after suspension over Jacob Blake shooting

The NBA has announced that the playoffs will resume on Saturday after an accord was struck with the league’s players’ union which will see the establishment of a ‘social justice coalition’ designed to tackle inequality.

The agreement comes amid widespread protest following the shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake by police last week in Wisconsin and follows the spate of ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests which engulfed many major sports – and in particular the NBA – in recent months.

A tense meeting between representatives of the remaining playoff teams was ended when the game’s most well-known player, LeBron James, left a meeting in which teams were coordinating a response to the latest in a series of violent incidents between law enforcement and members of the United States’ African-American community. 

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A court sits empty after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play their match against the Orlando Magic in protest of the police killing of Jacob Blake, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, August 26, 2020.
NBA shelves ALL playoffs after Milwaukee Bucks boycott game over Jacob Blake shooting, other leagues mull walk-outs

It was also reported that several high profile players favored canceling the playoffs before the agreement between the NBA and the NBPA was finalized.

James was followed out of the meeting by his Los Angeles Lakers teammates and representatives of the Los Angeles Clippers. Previously, the Milwaukee Bucks announced that they were ‘boycotting’ their playoff game against the Orlando Magic in protest against Blake’s shooting. 

The decision made by the Bucks was underscored by the other remaining teams in the NBA ‘bubble’ in Florida and its echo was felt in several other sports including Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League.

Terms of the agreement announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts on Friday state that the league will allow team arenas to used as venues to vote in the upcoming elections on November 3 in addition to the formation of a ‘social justice coalition’.

Additionally, a wave of advertising promoting voting rights will appear throughout broadcasts of the recommenced playoff games.

Per an official release from the NBA, the terms of the agreement are as follows:

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 and ballot receiving boards.

3.  The league will work with the players and our network partners to create and include election 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. 

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Basketball star LeBron James. © Reuters
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Various teams have returned to practice on Friday, though several media appearances have been cancelled. It is understood that the games scheduled to have taken place on Wednesday will now take place on Saturday, and those intended for Thursday will now happen on Sunday. The regular playoff schedule will then be observed after that.