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Raptors unlikely to play Thursday as NBA player strikes continue

Last Updated Aug 27, 2020 at 9:00 am EDT

It appears NBA players will continue to turn frustration into action.

Players across the league are expected to meet at 11 a.m. this morning to discuss how to continue, and the league’s biggest star has made his stance clear.

The Board of Governors will have a call at the same time this morning, and we’ll likely know more this afternoon, including whether or not the Raptors are going to play.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the idea of a strike “is on the table” after players from his team and the Boston Celtics met Tuesday night in advance of their second-round playoff series that is scheduled to tip off Thursday evening.

“They want to be part of a solution, they want to help, they want justice . . . Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to demand a little more action, and I think that’s really what they want,” Nurse told reporters a couple of hours before the Bucks were scheduled to play Orlando in Game 5 of their opening-round series.

“I think there’s enough attention, and there’s not quite enough action.”

Nurse said he’s heard a couple of his players discussing leaving the NBA campus and going home, though he doesn’t know if that is a team-wide belief.

“It just feels like we’re stuck. It feels like things are not changing. It feels like we’re not doing anything productive, basically. That’s how it feels,” said Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. “Those things hurt. I don’t care where you’re from . . . just seeing that and just knowing that every day it happens and it feels normal, just seeing Black men being shot every day, that hurts, man.”

The 26-year-old Siakam said he wouldn’t watch the video of Blake being shot multiple times in the back by police in Wisconsin.

The Raptors’ all-star said watching the death of George Floyd on video – Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck on May 25 – had traumatized him.

The Raptors have been at the forefront of the NBA’s social justice initiatives, arriving to the league’s Walt Disney World campus earlier this summer in buses with “Black Lives Matter” written in huge block letters, and asking for justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people who have been killed by police. They’ve knelt for both the American and Canadian anthems before games.

Nurse, who was recently named NBA coach of the year, said he can only listen to his players, and supports whatever decision they make.

“I’m trying to give them a forum to talk as much and often as I can. I’m trying to respect their priorities, and also give them some of my own personal thoughts,” Nurse, wearing an orange WNBA hoodie, said on his Zoom media availability.

“I’ve had couple very deep, personal discussions with these guys here this morning about playing, not playing, being in the bubble, leaving the bubble, coming to the bubble. All these things and I just give them my own personal opinion on it.”

He has heard of his players discussing going home, but doesn’t know if “that’s a team-wide thing.”

The day before the Raptors tip off what is expected to be a much tougher series than their 4-0 opening-round sweep of Brooklyn, Siakam was asked if it’s difficult to focus on playing basketball amidst the dark cloud of racial injustice.

“There’s really a lot of things that are way bigger than basketball going on,” he said. “You want to be able to play, you want to be able to, because at the end of the day, we know that basketball brings something to people. But at the same time, just seeing that happening every day, man, it’s tough. It hurts. . . yeah, it hurts.”

The Celtics, who swept their first-round series with Philadelphia, echoed the Raptors’ thoughts of frustration.

“We’re over here, guys are crying, guys are hurting right now because of what’s going on,” said Boston forward Grant Williams. “You never know if that’s your brother. What if that was my cousin? What if that was my family member? That’s something that weighs down on you.”

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said the discussion to boycott started with the Raptors, but that players on other teams are also talking about it. The Celtics forward knows people will ask: 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,” he said. “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. We’re more than just basketball players, we’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”

Before gathering in Florida for the NBA’s restart, Tatum pointed out that players were able to be on the front lines to protest, and many of them did, including Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry. Now there’s a feeling of being trapped in the bubble.

“We’re in this bubble and we’re isolated from everyone else and that’s frustrating,” the Celtics forward said. “I know some guys have talked about going home.”

Being a Black man in America, Tatum said, is “more important than what I do on the basketball court. . .When you think of a man getting shot seven times in the back with his kids in the car, that’s way more important.”

Boston coach Brad Stevens said he hasn’t heard much talk from his team on potentially boycotting games. He said the Celtics have met to allow players to speak about their feelings.

“I just simply said, each individual, we support 110 per cent,” Stevens said. “This is not easy. From the standpoint of being down here and feeling like you’re in this place that you can’t leave. . . totally understand anybody’s reaction to what’s going on outside of here and the desire to do more. Or the desire to not play. Or the desire to leave.”

The postponed NBA games came on the fourth anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s very first protest of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an NFL preseason game. Kaepernick sat through the anthem for his first protest, which he said was to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities. then famously kneeled during the anthem going forward.

WNBA

WNBA players opted out of their three games Wednesday night following the shooting of Jacob Blake over the weekend.

In Bradenton, Florida, on Wednesday, Washington was set to play Atlanta, Minnesota was going to face Los Angeles, and Connecticut was going to meet Phoenix. Players from the Mystics, Dream, Sparks and Lynx were talking on the court for about an hour deciding whether to play or not. The decision was announced shortly before the expected 7 pm. EDT tip for the Mystics and Dream.

All four teams took a knee at centre court right before leaving the court.

Atlanta Dream player Elizabeth Williams read a statement on ESPN saying that the “consensus is not to play in tonight’s games. We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA.”

The Mystics came into the arena wearing shirts that spelled out Blake’s name on the front and had holes in the back to signify the seven bullets that he was hit with by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The WNBA and its players have dedicated this season to social justice. Players have been wearing the name of Breonna Taylor on the back of the uniforms all season long.

MLB

A pair of Major League Baseball games were postponed Wednesday as players across the sports landscape reacted in the wake of the weekend shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin.

Games between the Cincinnati Reds and Brewers in Milwaukee and the Seattle Mariners and Padres in San Diego were called off hours before they were set to begin.

Other MLB games had finished, were in progress or just about to start when the announcements were made.

“The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game. With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression,” players from both teams said in a joint statement.

Mariners infielder/outfielder Dee Gordon said the team decided unanimously to skip Wednesday’s game.

“There are serious issues in this country,” Gordon tweeted. “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends. Our team voted unanimously not to play tonight.”

“Instead of watching us, we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening,” he said.

Mariners pitcher Justin Dunn tweeted: “Enough is enough.”

Dunn included a Black Lives Matter hashtag and a cartoon image of he and his Black teammates in Black Lives Matter shirts.

Colorado outfielder Matt Kemp, who is Black, announced on social media he would skip the Rockies’ game in Arizona “`in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer.”

“I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel,” he wrote. “In a world where we are the ones who need to remain calm while a trained professional points a gun in our face; a world where the people in uniforms who took an oath to protect us are the same ones killing us; a world where we become hashtags before we even reach our potential; we must stand together, speak out, protest, and be the change we demand, require, and need so bad.”

MLS

Five of six Major League Soccer games Wednesday were also been postponed in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The only match that kicked off prior to the postponements was Nashville vs. Orlando City.

Following the news of the NBA’s postponements, Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore tweeted at MLS asking “what are you going to do?”

Altidore has since responded positively to MLS and the sporting world’s response, tweeting “Proud of sports tonight and all of my guys in MLS.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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