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NBA players to end boycott, resume playoffs with plan for ‘improved ways to make social justice statements’

The Bucks’ decision to boycott Wednesday’s game against the Magic didn’t just create a domino effect throughout the NBA. It caused a movement across several professional sports leagues in the United States.

In addition to the three NBA playoff games that were postponed following Milwaukee’s boycott, multiple MLB, MLS and WNBA games were put on hold as athletes voiced their anger, sadness and frustration following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. It’s clear players are fed up with the lack of real action from those in power.

MORE: Kenny Smith walks off ‘NBA on TNT’ set in support of boycott

Now there is one big question hanging over the NBA: What happens next?

Here’s everything we know so far about the player boycott based on the latest reporting and what could happen next.

Why did the Bucks decide to boycott Wednesday’s game?

A video released Sunday night showed Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, being shot multiple times in the back by police officers as he attempted to get into his SUV. Blake’s three children, ages 3, 5 and 8, were reportedly inside the vehicle. Blake family attorney Ben Crump said Blake is paralyzed and it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again.

More than three hours after the Bucks were scheduled to start Game 5 of their first-round series against the Magic, Milwaukee players delivered a message demanding accountability. Bucks guards Sterling Brown and George Hill read a team statement to media members outside the team’s locker room Wednesday night that called for the Wisconsin State Legislature to “take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.”

The Bucks’ statement, in full:

“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.

“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.

“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.

“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced the postponement of three playoff games (Magic vs. Bucks, Thunder vs. Rockets and Trail Blazers vs. Lakers) scheduled to be played Wednesday shortly after the Bucks decided to boycott Game 5. The league said each game will be rescheduled, but no makeup dates have been announced.

Milwaukee’s decision, which was reportedly sparked by a Hill-led pregame discussion, caught the rest of the NBA off-guard, including the team’s front office. Still, the Bucks’ three principal team owners — Marc Lasry, Wes Edens and Jamie Dinan — released a joint statement Wednesday night saying they “fully support” the players’ decision.

“Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them,” they wrote. “The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change.”

Are NBA players going to boycott the rest of the 2019-20 season?

After it became clear games would not be held Wednesday, multiple reports emerged indicating players would hold a meeting at 8 p.m. ET to discuss the state of the season. Coaches were in attendance as well, but they were asked to leave at one point, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

A few key items from that meeting:

Players talked about voting and police reform and what team owners must do in order for the season to proceed, according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, who also noted members of the Bucks and Raptors were particularly outspoken during the meeting.The Clippers and Lakers voted to boycott the season, per multiple reports, though ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski clarified those votes were part of an informal poll. Every other team voted to continue play, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.There was reportedly frustration with how the Bucks handled the boycott, and some players wanted an explanation for why they didn’t alert other teams of their decision. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, however, supported the Bucks and said they didn’t need to explain anything.Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James were “adamant” about not finishing the playoffs, according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. James reportedly left the meeting early and was followed by the rest of the Lakers and Clippers.Michele Roberts, the executive director of the NBPA, laid out the financial ramifications of boycotting the season, including the possibility of owners terminating the collective bargaining agreement and a future lockout, per Wojnarowski.

The meeting ended around 11 p.m. ET, but it’s unclear how much was accomplished. A source told The Athletic’s David Aldridge the meeting ended “ugly” and there was uncertainty about what would happen Thursday.

One NBA player to me following the meeting: “It was emotional. Heated. It doesn’t look good right now, but we’re all hoping that everyone will sleep on it and maybe we can figure it out tomorrow because most of us still want to find a way to play.”

— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) August 27, 2020

What are the next steps for the NBA and its players?

The league’s Board of Governors conducted an emergency call with NBA commissioner Adam Silver at 11 a.m. ET on Thursday, per multiple reports. NBA players also had a meeting scheduled at that time. Per Wojnarowski, “several key members of the Lakers” stayed up through the early hours of the morning to discuss issues in the “bubble,” leading to optimism among the majority of players the season will continue.

No official ruling has been made regarding the remainder of the 2020 playoffs, but Wojnarowski reported at roughly noon ET on Thursday that players had decided to resume playing.

The NBA’s players have decided to resume the playoffs, source tells ESPN.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 27, 2020

He also noted that Thursday’s playoff games (Nuggets vs. Jazz, Celtics vs. Raptors and Clippers vs. Mavericks) would be postponed.

Charania reported that both the NBA and its players aim to restart the playoffs on Friday, adding that players will “find new and improved ways to make social justice statements.”

Sources: NBA players — and league — are aiming to restart games Friday.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 27, 2020

James and other players reportedly changed positions after initially supporting a boycott of the season, saying it was in the best interest of the players’ movement to resume the season. A major source of frustration in the Wednesday night meeting “stemmed from players not being on the same page,” according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Another meeting will reportedly take place later on Thursday comprising team owners and two player representatives from each remaining team. Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the focus of the meeting is to formulate plans to address racial injustice issues and figure out logistical details of resuming the playoffs.

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