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Wesley Matthews: Bucks Not Apologetic for Strike Decision; 'Can't Script Change'

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 29, 2020

Members of the Milwaukee Bucks join arms as they kneel during the national anthem before an NBA basketball first round playoff game against the Orlando Magic Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic took to the court for the rescheduled Game 5 of their first-round series Saturday after a work stoppage led by the Bucks on Wednesday. Following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, Milwaukee's players protested against systemic racism and police brutality by refusing to play.

Shooting guard Wesley Matthews told reporters Saturday the team stood by that decision and felt no need to apologize after the NBA season was nearly ended in the wake of the stoppage:

"I feel like we did what any team would've done in that situation. And we're not apologetic for what we did, what we feel is right. Obviously, with communication it could've been a little bit better, but in a moment like that, sometimes there isn't time for it.

"You can't script change. You can't script moments. And we saw an opportunity to be with our brother, to show that we're human, to show that this is visibly and emotionally and physically impactful even though we are here in the bubble, disconnected from the outside world in certain retrospect, that it still hits and it's still a problem and a call to legislation to help."

Rather than play Game 5, the Bucks talked with Wisconsin's attorney general and lieutenant governor to seek justice on Blake's behalf, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 29-year-old Black man was returning to his car after an alleged domestic dispute when officer Rusten Sheskey shot him in the back seven times. Blake, whose children were in the car, is expected to survive but is paralyzed from the waist down.

Shortly after the Bucks announced they were striking in protest, the league postponed play. Players and teams across MLB, MLS and the WNBA protested in solidarity, and their leagues also postponed games.

Matthews said Milwaukee expected to forfeit Game 5 and allow Orlando to climb within a game of evening the series.

"The idea of going down 3-2 and making that sacrifice or giving that up for what we thought was more important and bigger than a game of basketball, a playoff game," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "A situation where we could be 3-2, I think the room, I don't think anybody totally grasped exactly what was gonna happen but certainly knew that this was possible and that this was big and there was no hesitation in regards to going down 3-2."

Budenholzer said the idea of striking was led by assistant coach Darvin Ham, George Hill and Sterling Brown—who sued the city of Milwaukee after a police officer used a Taser on him while citing him for a parking violation in 2018.

The NBA and players agreed to resume the playoffs and announced multiple social justice and voter access initiatives by the league.

"We didn't think that this was gonna turn the way that it did," Matthews said, "but we are grateful for the fact that that moment, that pause, that postponement was able to help everybody reflect again and realize that everybody's gotta step up."

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