The NBA has managed to navigate the coronavirus, thanks to a hard bubble that has held up well in Orlando. That bubble, however, is on the verge of bursting.
If it happens, it will be due not to COVID-19 but to the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by police in Wisconsin. Blake absorbed seven bullets to the back at close range, and he reportedly is permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
In response to the shooting, the Milwaukee Bucks have boycotted tonight’s playoff game, Game Five, against the Orlando Magic.
“We’re tired of the killings and the injustice,” Bucks guard George Hill told Marc J. Spears of ESPN.com’s The Undefeated. There is talk of other boycotts, with the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly planning to boycott, as well. CNN has reported that no NBA games will be played today.
It’s unclear what the consequences of a boycotted playoff game is. The Magic reportedly are refusing to accept a forfeit in response to the Bucks’ decision to not play.
Meanwhile, Lakers star LeBron James has tweeted this blunt and strong message to his 47 million followers: “FUCK THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT.”
It feels like it’s just a matter of time before players start leaving the NBA bubble for good, bringing the postseason to a halt and likely to an end. Which leads to this question: What will happen in the NFL?
On Tuesday, the Lions canceled practice due to the Jacob Blake shooting. With the NBA potentially on the verge of seeing the entire collapse of their season in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, it could very easily spread to other American sports.
Last month, Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle said, “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society.” Doolittle’s comments were made in reference to our national inability to get the pandemic under control. The shooting of Jacob Blake underscores the reality that our current dysfunction isn’t confined to the issue of public health.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m. ET: The NBA has announced that all three of Wednesday’s games, each Game Fives, have been postponed and that the games will be “rescheduled.” It’s unclear when the games will be played, or if the players will agree to play them any time soon.