BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics and Raptors are supposed to tip off their second-round playoff series Thursday night in Orlando. That may not happen, as the two teams have discussed a potential boycott in light of the Jacob Blake shooting.
That boycott may not be for just one game, either.
“We’re angry and we’re trying to come together and figure out a way we can do something,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said Wednesday. “People will say what is sitting out going to do? Obviously, we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have. Everyone will have to talk about it and raise awareness. We don’t want to keep playing and forget what is going on in the outside world.
“We’re more than basketball players, we’re people. We have these raw emotions and feelings,” continued Tatum. “We’re just trying to get the message out that this is bigger than basketball. Obviously basketball gives us a unique platform to use with a lot of influence on people with what we do, what we say and what we promote. We’re trying to figure out the best way to do that.”
The NBA postponed all three of its games on Wednesday after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott its Wednesday afternoon game against the Orlando Magic.,refusing to take the court in Orlando. A short time later, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets decided to do the same.
The NBA and the NBPA today announced that in light of the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not take the floor today for Game 5 against the Orlando Magic, today’s three games – MIL-ORL, HOU-OKC and LAL-POR have been postponed. Game 5 of each series will be rescheduled.
— NBA (@NBA) August 26, 2020
The NBA, owners and front offices didn't see this wave of player boycotts coming today. Hours ago, they all expected to be playing these games tonight. This is a pivot point for the NBA and professional sports in North America.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 26, 2020
Celtics guards Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart and Raptors players Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell all discussed possibly boycotting the game on Tuesday as they opened up about the shooting. Blake, a Black man, was shot in the back seven times by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin over the weekend, sparking more protests and rioting throughout the country.
“I’m so proud of our players that they have a voice and that voice is being heard,” Celtics broadcaster and former Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell told WBZ.
Celtics and Raptors players met Tuesday night to discuss a possible boycott of Game 1, and will do so again Wednesday night. Tatum said they hope to have a plan in place Wednesday evening, whether its both teams boycotting or individual players from both teams.
“If certain guys, certain individuals make their own decision, that’s perfectly fine. Everybody is entitled to feel how they feel and can act the way they want to act. No one is going to be judged one way or another,” said Tatum.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was asked about a possible boycott on Wednesday, and though he said there hasn’t been a lot of talk about not playing from his players, the team supports whatever decision they make.
“We’ve had a couple of different meetings, talked about how we feel, just generally where everybody is. Each individual, we support 110 percent,” said Stevens. “This is not easy from the standpoint of being down here, in this place that you can’t leave. We totally understand anyone’s reaction to what is going on outside here and the desire to do more, to not play, or to leave. It’s totally up to the individual and we’re here to support that.”
We need CHANGE!
Change can NOT wait!
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) August 26, 2020
Respect to the guys in the Bucks locker room. Taking a stand for what they believe in and for justice! https://t.co/mLKURgaqiO
— Devin&Jason McCourty (@McCourtyTwins) August 26, 2020
Several Celtics players participated in peaceful protests following the murder of George Floyd in May. But now that players are stuck inside the NBA bubble, it’s adding another layer of frustration in their quest for change.
“Guys were able to be on the front lines, be in their communities and neighborhoods. Now it’s tough because were stuck between the decision, some people can’t be home and we understand what we’re giving up being here. It’s a tough decision.” he said. “I know some guys have thought about going home, because there are a lot of things bigger than basketball. We’re people first and foremost, not just basketball players. The feeling of being isolated from the outside world, that’s how I feel about it and I know that’s how a lot of other guys feel.
“How many points you score or games you win, that [stuff] don’t matter no more. Being a Black man in America is more important than what I do on the basketball court,” said Tatum. “Helping create conversation or change is more important than anything I can do out there. You think about a man being shot seven times in the back with his kids in the car is more about anything I can do on the floor.”
“All we can hope and try to do is impact change. That’s something that we always strive for,” said forward Grant Williams. “We started with the kneeling and we hoped it would send a message. It sent a message, but then it was pushed out. So now it’s what can we do next to show that we’re involved and that we really care? That it saddens us that nothing is changing?”
Several NBA players and coaches have spoken out about the Blake shooting, with former Celtics coach and current L.A. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers sharing some powerful words on the incident Tuesday evening.
“I should just be a coach. And, it’s so often I’m reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better. But we have to demand better. It’s funny, we protest and they send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits. They go to Michigan with guns and they’re spitting on cops and nothing happens,” said Rivers. “The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all of their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just the way they protect everybody else.”
Tip off for Thursday night’s Game 1 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., but we should know well before then whether or not the Celtics and Raptors will be taking the floor.