NBA Playoffs Will Resume Saturday After Deal on Voting Initiatives

The league and its players’ union struck a deal to restart the season—and turn NBA arenas into voting sites for November’s election—after the Milwaukee Bucks’ boycott

The NBA and its players said on Friday the league will resume the basketball playoffs on Saturday, part of a broader agreement in which team owners will work with local election officials to convert more arenas into voting sites for November’s election.

The agreement comes three days after the Milwaukee Bucks’ protest of a police shooting shut down the league and paused other sports in the U.S. NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said in a joint statement that they would also create television spots to promote civic engagement and form a coalition of players, coaches, and team owners that advocates for police reform, among other measures to address social justice and racial inequality.

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“We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together—in Orlando and in all NBA team markets—push for meaningful and sustainable change,” Roberts and Silver said.

The NBA playoffs are back after several days of uncertainty that imperiled the season, as their protests rippled beyond the league’s Walt Disney World bubble and touched almost every sport.

The negotiations began after the Bucks’ decision not to take the court for a game on Wednesday to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wis. The players from the 13 teams left in the NBA playoffs convened that night to discuss what they wanted—and whether they wanted to continue the playoffs. After they elected to keep playing on Thursday, representatives from each team met with union officials, league executives and team owners, including Michael Jordan, to formulate their next steps.

“We understand how strong our voice is,” said Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, the president of the union, “and ultimately we decided if we go away from this stage, we don’t necessarily have that same platform.”

Antiracism protests took place in Kenosha, Wis., and other U.S. cities Wednesday amid anger over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Authorities identified the officer who shot Blake and police arrested a 17-year-old in connection with a deadly shooting during protests in Kenosha. Photo: Alex Wroblewski for The Wall Street Journal (Originally published Aug. 27, 2020)

Paul also said on Friday that he’d spoken with Blake’s father during an emotional week for a league of predominantly Black players as they demanded change. They would continue to play, he said, and they would continue to speak out.

“We’re all hurt,” he said. “We’re all tired of just seeing the same thing over and over again.”

The pledge to transform NBA arenas into voting locations before November was the most significant commitment to political action. The Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks—the team in the politically important state of Wisconsin that sparked this week’s protests—had already turned their facilities into voting sites. The Houston Rockets announced on Thursday that their arena would be open for early voting and Nov. 3.

The league’s push to register voters and provide them with places to cast their ballots comes as a voting rights initiative led by basketball superstar LeBron James converted Dodgers Stadium into a polling site. It also follows several NBA teams turning Election Day into a paid holiday in one of the first policy shifts that resulted from the national reckoning after the death of George Floyd.

WSJ / Balkantimes.press

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