National Basketball Association (NBA) players agreed on Thursday not to boycott the rest of the season after forcing the postponement of a slate of play-off games in a protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday said the NBA has become “like a political organisation” after its boycott in solidarity with those protesting against the police shooting of a Black man in the Wisconsin town of Kenosha. The Sunday shooting triggered days of violent unrest in the city and has riled US professional sports.
NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said the league is “hopeful” to resume games either on Friday or Saturday, but was postponing a second day of play-off games on Thursday.
After the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for game five of their play-off series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, the NBA postponed all three games on the day’s schedule and on Thursday postponed three more games that had been set for later in the day.
Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA also postponed games on Wednesday. The women’s league postponed its Thursday games as well.
The Bucks players said in a statement on Wednesday they were unable to focus on basketball due to the events in Kenosha, which is located about 40 miles (64 km) south of Milwaukee.
The NBA players decided to resume the playoffs after meeting among themselves in the bubble-like campus at Disney World in Florida, where the games are being played due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NBA Board of Governors held an emergency meeting on Thursday.
Since the NBA restarted its pandemic-interrupted season, courts have had “Black Lives Matter” painted on them and many players have worn jerseys with social justice slogans.
NBA referees marched on Thursday around the Disney campus in support of the players, wearing black T-shirts with messages like “Everybody vs Racism” and “Black Lives Matter”.
Bass said there is a conference call scheduled for later on Thursday between a group of NBA players and team officials, along with representatives from the players’ union and the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee chairman, Michael Jordan, “to discuss next steps”.
Trump, during a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Hurricane Laura, criticised the NBA.
“They’ve become like a political organisation and that’s not a good thing. I don’t think that’s a good thing for sports or for the country,” he said.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, told Politico he planned to reach out to NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers about the player protests.
James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!”
Kushner told CNBC that “NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially” and that the players have “put a lot of slogans out” rather than “actual action”.
Another White House official, Marc Short, called the NBA players’ protests “absurd” and “silly”.
James, along with other NBA players and coaches, has been critical of Trump in the past. In 2018, he accused Trump of trying to use sports to divide Americans. Trump that year questioned James’s intelligence.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic challenger in the November 3 presidential election, and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris – the first Black woman on a major party ticket – praised the actions of the NBA players.
“It takes monumental courage to stand up for what you believe in,” Harris said.
The Hockey Diversity Alliance, which works against racism and intolerance in hockey, called on the National Hockey League to suspend its two playoff games scheduled for Thursday.
Athletes from around the world have united behind anti-racism protests sparked by the death in May of George Floyd, a Black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Kenosha has been rocked by civil unrest and violence since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back seven times at close range in an incident captured on video. Blake was left paralysed by the shooting and is being treated for his injuries.