The NBA playoffs will resume Saturday after play was suspended on Wednesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their postseason game against the Orlando Magic in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts ended the three-game halt with a joint statement on Friday afternoon, detailing plans to work together for social justice and easier access to voting locations for the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
A 29-year-old father of three, Blake was shot in the back seven times and left paralyzed by Kenosha, Wisconsin police officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call on Sunday. Since the shooting, the WNBA, Major League Baseball, and MLS have also postponed games in protest, while demonstrators have marched every night in Kenosha, a lakeside town 40 miles south of Milwaukee.
‘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,’ read the joint statement. ‘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, August 29.’
As the statement explained, the season is restarting with an understanding that the league and players will immediately establish a social justice coalition, team governors will work with local election officials to convert some facilities into voting locations, wherever possible, and the NBA’s network partners will produce advertisements aimed at promoting civic engagement.
Increasing voting access could prove to be challenging for NBA teams, many of which do not own their home arena.
However, in the cities where that is the case, such as New York, where the Knicks and Nets play, team governors will work with local election officials to convert those facilities into polling locations. The aim is to create safe, in-person voting opportunities for citizens amid the ongoing pandemic, which threatens to hurt voter turnout.
In the cities where relevant deadlines have passed, team governors will offer facilities for voter registration and other election-related activities.
‘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,’ the statement continued.
‘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.’
The announcement comes on the same day that 100 NBA employees walked out of the league offices in New York and New Jersey in protest of the Blake shooting.
The employees intended to spend part of the day in a virtual meeting, coming up with ideas of actions the league could take and present them to the NBA next week, ESPN said.
Voter suppression has been a major issue for many players, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
James, an outspoken activist and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, helped form a group that will spend millions of dollars to battle voter disenfranchisement in predominantly black communities ahead of the November 3 election between the Republican incumbent and Democrat Joe Biden.
The four-time NBA MVP formed the voting rights group More Than a Vote earlier this year along with other prominent athletes to counter misinformation and fight what he said was voter suppression in Black communities.
‘LeBron recognized that these athletes are the most trusted members of their communities,’ said a person familiar with his thinking. ‘It is entirely about the Black community and protecting and strengthening their right to vote.’
The group will collaborate with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on a multimillion-dollar initiative to recruit young poll workers in Black communities in a dozen states, including battlegrounds such as Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Georgia.
A shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites amid worries about the coronavirus pandemic led to dramatically fewer polling locations in some states that held primaries earlier this year, including Georgia and Wisconsin.
That led to long lines, hours-long waits and widespread confusion, particularly in hard-hit African-American communities that felt the brunt of the cutbacks.