Players from the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors were jointly discussing the possibility of boycotting Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Blake, a black man, was killed by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin with video of the shooting circulating on social media.
“The players are deeply disappointed that the same thing happens again in a relatively short timeframe,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said, according to ESPN’s Tim Botemps.
“They want to be part of the solution. They want to help. They want justice. They want this particular problem to be handled in a much better way. That’s the first thing.
“Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to try to demand a little more action. That’s really what they want. I think there’s enough attention and not quite enough action, and that’s what I can sense from the discussions, is their disappointment. Like, ‘Man, how can we get something to change, like now?’ We need something to change, not just attention on the problem. We need a plan of action.”
According to the report, the players held a “players only” meeting o Tuesday night to discuss the potential boycott, along with other measures. They plan to meet again on Wednesday night to discuss further.
“Really, all we can hope and try to do is impact change,” Celtics forward Grant Williams said.
“That’s something that have we always strived for, and we started with the kneeling. We were hoping that would send a message and it sent a message, but then as that message gets pushed out, then they stopped showing us.
“So, now, it’s more so about what can we do next to not only show that we’re not only involved, but also show that we really care and that it saddens us to see nothing’s changing. And there’s something that has to happen. And that’s part of the discussions and creative ways of how we can create change, and how we can not only be there for those who are for experiencing tough trials, like the Blake family right now and not only support them, but also show their stores, send their message out to the communities that show how this world is and how we can can hopefully get better and improve as a society. Not one by one, but hopefully as a whole.”
With the George Floyd murder still fresh in everyone’s mind, frustration is clearly mounting as yet another incident involving the death of a black person at the hands of police has occurred.
“The first incident that happened a couple of months ago, guys were able to be on the front lines, be seen, be in their communities and their neighborhoods,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said. “Right now it’s tough because we’re kind of stuck between the decision of, some people can go home but we understand what we’re giving up by being here. The work that so many people, so many hours went into making this all possible. So it’s a tough decision.
“I know some guys have thought about going home. A lot of things are bigger than basketball and we understand that. We’re people, first and foremost. We’re not just basketball players. So the feeling of being isolated from the outside world, that’d kind of how I feel right now. I know a lot of other guys feel the same way.”
And while an NBA Championship is on the minds of players, basketball is not something the players are thinking about in the wake of Blake’s death.
“Yeah, I mean how many points we score, that s— don’t matter right now,” Tatum continued. “Being a Black man in America is more important than what I’m doing out there on a basketball court. Using my platform, my voice to help create conversations and change is more important than anything I can do out there. You think about a man getting shot in his back seven times with his kids in the car is way more important than anything I can do out there on the floor.
“Just knowing his kids are going to be traumatized for the rest of their life seeing their dad get shot for no reason, I couldn’t even imagine how that’s going to affect them the rest of their life. It’s so many things in this life that are way more important than anything.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens says that their goal, as coaches, is to help their players in any way that they can, by either listening or supporting them in their efforts.
“It’s not about me, obviously,” Stevens said.
“It’s about these guys are people first. They care deeply about the communities that they grew up in, the communities they live in and everything that’s going on affects them emotionally and us emotionally just like everyone else. I think that’s something that sometimes when you turn on the TV you forget. I think that certainly they’re amazing. And we are in coaching as much as anything to just be a part of a team, and to be around people, and to share those moments that only a team can share in those rooms. The things I think you look back on your career is you really think about the relationships that you built and everything else and how people from backgrounds, every background, can come together for a common goal. That’s what makes sports special and makes teams special. But at the end of the day, also, certainly we’re all affected by what’s going on around us.”
“From our standpoint, I think that we’ve got some pretty conscientious guys,” Nurse said. “I think we obviously have the footage and the situation with Masai, just coming out, and our team just saw that recently, as well. So there’s a personalness to it, I think, with part of our, our group.”
“It’s an active discussion,” Tatum said. “Obviously it started with the Raptors, and obviously that’s who we’re playing. It’s been talked about with other guys on other teams. People are upset or angry, and we’re just trying to come together and figure out a way how we can do something.
“Obviously people are going to say, ‘Well, what is sitting out going to do?’ Obviously if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have. Everybody’s going to have to talk about it, continue to raise awareness. We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world, because it’s affecting us. It’s affecting everybody.
“We’re more than just basketball players. We’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”