Rick Zamperin: NBA players boycott games after Jacob Blake shooting

Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet looks on during a coach's challenge in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, an historic boycott has begun in the NBA bubble.

The Milwaukee Bucks refused to come out of their locker room Wednesday afternoon for Game 5 of their first round playoff series against the Orlando Magic in an effort to protest systemic racism and police brutality.

Hours earlier, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said the idea of a boycott was “on the table” after players from his team and the Boston Celtics met Tuesday night in advance of their playoff series opener Thursday night.

Blake, 29, was shot in the back multiple times on Sunday by an officer in Kenosha, Wisc., who was responding to a domestic incident, and may never walk again.

The incident — three months after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis — has many people shaken, frustrated and angry, including numerous NBA players and coaches.

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Read more: ‘Nothing’s really changing’ — Raptors’ VanVleet, Powell speak out after Jacob Blake shooting

L.A. Lakers star LeBron James said earlier this week: “We are scared as Black people in America… we are terrified.”

L.A. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said: “It’s amazing to me, why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.”

Toronto’s Fred VanVleet and Norm Powell revealed Wednesday that the team discussed the Blake shooting and has talked about the potential of boycotting playoff games, a sentiment that Boston’s Marcus Smart has echoed, saying a boycott is in “the back of our minds.”

On Wednesday, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told reporters that some players on the team are thinking about leaving the NBA bubble entirely.

Click to play video: 'Raptors’ VanVleet, Powell say team boycott of games discussed in response to Jacob Blake shooting' Raptors’ VanVleet, Powell say team boycott of games discussed in response to Jacob Blake shooting
Raptors’ VanVleet, Powell say team boycott of games discussed in response to Jacob Blake shooting – Aug 25, 2020

After Floyd’s death, some NBA players expressed concern that the conversations and daily protests that called for the elimination of racial injustice would get drowned out by highlight reels and boxscores if the 2020 season resumed.

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Weeks into the NBA bubble, they were right.

Despite the Black Lives Matter messaging on the NBA court, the backs of jerseys and on-screen during games, the players clearly believe all of their efforts to promote equality over the last several weeks have lost their effectiveness.

VanVleet summed it up best by saying, “It’s starting to feel like everything we’re doing is just going through the motions. Nothing’s changing.”

Boycotting games is the most dramatic statement players can make, and the most effective one, in their ongoing fight for change.

Read more: Jacob Blake’s father says son paralyzed from waist down after Kenosha police shooting

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It will obviously force the league to alter its playoff schedule, thus providing a top story in the news cycle, and it could make sponsors a little nervous about the go-forward plan.

You will recall the Washington Football Team removed its ‘Redskins’ moniker after public pressure forced major American companies to rethink their association with the team and the NFL, and the same thing happened with the CFL franchise in Edmonton.

If boycotting NBA games can create the same level of financial pressure on the league and its sponsors, we may finally see a significant step forward.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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