NBA playoffs to resume after players end short-lived boycott

Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Aug 27 (efe-epa).- The NBA playoffs are set to resume after the players voted Thursday to bring an end to a boycott they had launched the day before to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

“NBA players reportedly decided Thursday (morning) they want to continue the season, coming to that consensus one day after three post-season games were postponed in a protest of racial injustice,” the league said, referring to media reports.

First-round playoff games scheduled for Wednesday – the Milwaukee Bucks versus the Orlando Magic, the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers vs. the Los Angeles Lakers – were postponed.

Two other first-round contests – the Denver Nuggets vs. the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers vs. the Dallas Mavericks – and a second-round game pitting the Boston Celtics against the defending champion Toronto Raptors that had been scheduled for Thursday also will be played at a later date.

It is expected that games will resume on Friday in fulfillment of the league’s commitments with television networks, which will not pay for their broadcast rights if the playoffs are canceled.

“There is a video-conference call meeting scheduled later (Thursday) afternoon between a group of NBA players and team governors representing the 13 teams in Orlando, along with representatives from the National Basketball Players Association and the league office and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chairman Michael Jordan, to discuss next steps,” the league’s executive vice president, Mike Bass, said in a statement.

The players are expected to be told at that gathering that canceling the playoffs would have severe economic consequences for the NBA, which is spending more than $150 million to complete the coronavirus-interrupted 2019-2020 season behind closed doors at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, part of the Orlando, Florida, metropolitan area, and would lose by far its biggest source of income if television broadcast rights revenues were to dry up.

During the meeting, action plans also are to be unveiled for addressing the problems of racial inequality and social injustice.

The players launched their “temporary boycott” to protest an incident last Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in which a 29-year-old African-American man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a police officer who was responding to a domestic incident.

Amateur video footage of the incident showed the suspect apparently ignoring police orders and trying to get into the driver’s side of an SUV; Blake’s three children were sitting inside the vehicle at the time the shots were fired.

Blake’s father said his son was left paralyzed by the police-involved shooting, which has sparked violent protests in Kenosha and other cities.

One of the sites of these latest protests has been Minneapolis, where the May 25 death of an African-American man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly eight minutes sparked protests worldwide.

Wednesday marked the fourth anniversary of the initial on-field protest by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who on Aug. 26, 2016, was first spotted sitting during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.

Kaepernick, who later started kneeling for the anthem, said he was protesting racial inequality and mistreatment of minorities by the police.

The one-time star player, who incurred the wrath of many fans with his actions, has not been signed since becoming a free agent in early 2017.

Later that same year, Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL that accused that organization and owners of the league’s 32 teams of colluding to blacklist him in retaliation for his form of protest.

The league in early 2019 settled a pair of lawsuits filed by Kaepernick and one of his former teammates with the San Francisco 49ers, Eric Reid, for an undisclosed sum.

Kaepernick’s protest has now spread across much of the sports world.

NBA coaches, players and referees have been kneeling during the pre-game playing of the national anthem to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter, a decentralized movement that aims to combat racially motivated violence against African-Americans.

The slogan “Black Lives Matter” has been painted on the three courts used at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, and the players also have been wearing hoodies bearing those same words prior to every game.

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