KISSIMMEE, Fla. — For the second consecutive day, sports leagues across the country postponed games Thursday as athletes united in solidarity in response to continuing concerns over racial inequality and police brutality.
After the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, discussion among the other NBA teams that remain in the Florida bubble prompted the league to postpone Wednesday and Thursday’s complete slate of playoff games as players and league executives discussed what the next step should be.
On Thursday, that included Game 6 of the first-round series between the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.
The NBA’s stoppage came as a response to the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin on Sunday, the latest in a long string of highly publicized incidences in which Black people have been injured or killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Players throughout the NBA had vowed that the 2019-20 season restart, taking place at Walt Disney World, would be a place where activism and continued dialogue surrounding issues of racial injustice could be front and center. In recent days, players had become frustrated and disheartened by the lack of action or change, which led to the Bucks’ initial refusal to take the court.
On Wednesday night, players and coaches met inside the NBA bubble and had a discussion that lasted for hours, with Oklahoma City guard and National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul and Miami Heat forward and NBPA vice president Andre Iguodala leading a large part of the discussion, according to sources with knowledge of the meeting.
Though the meeting on Wednesday night ended without resolution and with many wondering if the NBA would be able to resume the playoffs, the players met again on Thursday morning and voted to move forward with games, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
A board of governors meeting was also held on Thursday morning, and then in the afternoon about 90 minutes before the Jazz and Nuggets were scheduled to tip off in Game 6, the league officially announced that the day’s games would not be played.
“NBA playoff games for today will not be played as scheduled. We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday,” NBA executive vice president Mike Bass said in a statement.
After discussions continued late into Thursday evening, many in the league are expecting Saturday to be the earliest that the league would resume play. If that is the case, it’s expected that games that were originally scheduled for Wednesday would be played Saturday, and games scheduled for Thursday would be played Sunday with the remainder of the playoff schedule moving ahead in an every-other-day format as it had during the first part of the opening round.
On Thursday evening, representatives from the 13 teams still in the bubble, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, players association representatives and executives, members of the board of governors and NBA labor relations committee chairman Michael Jordan met via a conference call “to discuss next steps.”
While Wednesday night’s meeting was tense with differing opinions on how to move forward, with the Los Angeles Lakers — most notably LeBron James — and LA Clippers reportedly voicing support for ending the season now, Thursday’s meetings were reportedly much more united and focused on a plan of action.
In the final meeting of the day, player representatives talked with board of governors members, who are either team owners or representatives of the owners, with the focus of the meeting on ways that the teams and the league can make tangible and real change in areas of criminal justice reform, voting awareness, registration and accessibility, and intentional pushes for changes in policies that protect law enforcement from accountability, according to league sources.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who is the team’s NBPA representative, has been a very active participant in discussions, according to a source with knowledge of the meetings that are ongoing inside the NBA bubble. Mitchell’s close relationship with some of the league’s more vocal and influential players, including OKC’s Paul, has impacted his role as a vocal leader on the Jazz.
The NBA, players, and owners were expected to make a joint statement at some time late Thursday evening or Friday morning, but had not done so by Thursday night.