Fred VanVleet, Marcus Smart Discuss Possibility of Players Boycotting NBA Games

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistAugust 25, 2020

Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart plays against against the Oklahoma City Thunder during an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March, 8, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are scheduled to play in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting Thursday, but members of both teams have discussed boycotting games in protest of Jacob Blake being shot multiple times by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday.

Raptors guard Norman Powell told reporters a boycott is "being talked about" because "taking a knee is not getting it done."

Fred VanVleet also shared his thoughts on the matter, per ESPN's Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps:

"We knew coming here or not coming here was not going to stop anything, but I think ultimately playing or not playing puts pressure on somebody.

"So, for example, this happened in Kenosha, Wisconsin, if I'm correct? Would it be nice if, in a perfect world, we all say we're not playing, and the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks—that's going to trickle down. If he steps up to the plate and puts pressure on the district attorney's office, and state's attorney, and governors, and politicians there to make real change and get some justice.

"I know it's not that simple. But, at the end of the day, if we're gonna sit here and talk about making change, then at some point we're gonna have to put our nuts on the line and actually put something up to lose, rather than just money or visibility. I'm just over the media aspect of it. It's sensationalized, we talk about it every day, that's all we see, but it just feels like a big pacifier to me."

Celtics guard Marcus Smart echoed those sentiments when he talked to the media: "It's something in the back of our mind. There's more important things than basketball right now."

Celtics on NBC Sports Boston @NBCSCeltics

"We haven't confirmed anything, but it's definitely something in the back of our minds we could plan on doing." - @smart_MS3 on if he or any players he knows will sit out games in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting. https://t.co/yXaIzJduqP

Per Clare Proctor of the Chicago Sun-Times, Blake's father said his son is paralyzed from the waist down and that doctors aren't sure if he will recover.

Protests have been ongoing in Kenosha since the shooting. Two officers involved were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

The shooting has sparked reaction from across the sports world, including the NBA. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul addressed the shooting after his team's win over the Houston Rockets on Monday:

"I just want to send my prayers out to Jacob Blake and their family. The things that we decided to come down here to play for, and we said we're going to speak on the social injustice and the things that continue to happen to our people—it's not right. It's not right. So, the win is good, but voting is real. I'm going to challenge all my NBA guys, other sports guys: Let's try to get our entire teams registered to vote. There's a lot of stuff going on in the country. Sports—it's cool, it's good and well, that's how we take care of our families. But those are the real issues that we've got to start addressing."

Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill told reporters the NBA shouldn't have restarted the season: "We can't do anything [from Orlando]. First of all, we shouldn't have even came to this damn place, to be honest. I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are."

Before the NBA resumed play, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Kyrie Irving "made an impassioned plea for players to make a stand and sit out" during a June conference call in part to make sure player activism in the wake of police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, remained in focus.

The league has taken on an increased role in promoting social activism and racial justice. The NBA and NBPA established a $300 million fund in early August to economically empower Black communities over the next 10 years.

When the season resumed in Florida in late July, most players and coaches for each of the 22 teams took a knee during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality.