NBA play-off teams are poised to discuss the competition’s next steps after matches were postponed for a second successive day following protests against perceived racial injustice.
A series of major sporting events in the United States were initially called off on Wednesday after athletes spoke out in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
Thursday’s basketball matches between the Utah Jazz and the Denver Nuggets, the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics, and the LA Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks have since followed suit, while three WNBA fixtures have also been postponed.
Baseball players have also rallied to the cause, with three games postponed on Wednesday following by a further seven being called off on Thursday. These included the New York Mets-Miami Marlins fixture in New York, in which players symbolically took the field in silence before filing off, leaving a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on home plate.
The NBA hopes for action to resume on either Friday or Saturday as it prepares to hold a video meeting later on Thursday, which will be attended by representatives from the 13 teams remaining in the end-of-season play-offs being staged in Florida.
NBA executive vice-president Mike Bass said in a statement: “NBA play-off games for today will not be played as scheduled. We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday.
“There is a video conference call meeting scheduled later this afternoon between a group of NBA players and team governors representing the 13 teams in Orlando, along with representatives from the National Basketball Players Association and the league office and NBA Labor Relations Committee Chairman Michael Jordan, to discuss next steps.”
LeBron James issued a call for people to effect social change in the US. The LA Lakers great, a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, urged people to vote in November’s election.
“Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!” James tweeted. “It’s on US to make a difference. Together. That’s why your vote is more than a vote.”
Meanwhile, former world number one tennis player Naomi Osaka appears to have reversed her decision to withdraw from the Western & Southern Open in New York.
The 22-year-old initially dropped out of her semi-final against Elise Mertens, saying “before I am an athlete, I am a black woman”.
But the WTA has confirmed the two-time grand slam champion will return to the tournament – which was paused on Thursday – and she has been included in Friday’s order of play.
Widespread disruption to US sport began on Wednesday after players responded to Sunday’s shooting of African-American Blake and the civil unrest which has followed.
Blake was shot on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, apparently in the back. The incident was captured on phone video, igniting new protests over racial injustice in several US cities.
Wisconsin team the Milwaukee Bucks – based around 40 miles from Kenosha – took the initiative, boycotting their play-off game against the Orlando Magic.
In all, three NBA play-off games, three Major League Baseball matches, three WNBA fixtures and five Major League Soccer games were postponed on Wednesday.
In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers hosted a double-header on Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds after players opted out of their scheduled match on Wednesday.
The Mets and the Marlins appeared to have coordinated their protest action.
Both teams and their coaches took the field in full uniform, then stood in silence for 42 seconds before filing off, leaving the black T-shirt on home plate. The 42-second observance was thought to have been a reference to the number worn by Jackie Robinson, the former Brooklyn Dodger who was the first black man in the major leagues.
Six of the other 14 games scheduled for Thursday were postponed, as Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred was moved to deny speculation he had put pressure on players to play, as the league seeks to continue a season already heavily disrupted by the coronavirus.
“Over the past two days, players on a number of clubs have decided not to play games,” Manfred said in a statement.
“I have said both publicly and privately that I respect those decisions and support the need to address social injustice.
“I have not attempted in any way to prevent players from expressing themselves by not playing, nor have I suggested any alternative form of protest to any Club personnel or any player. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.”
The NHL and the competition’s players’ association, meanwhile, have announced that play-off fixtures scheduled for Thursday and Friday will be postponed.
“After much discussion, NHL players believe that the best course of action would be to take a step back and not play tonight’s and tomorrow’s games as scheduled,” read a statement.
“The NHL supports the players’ decision and will reschedule those four games beginning Saturday and adjust the remainder of the second-round schedule accordingly.”
Elsewhere, nine NFL teams cancelled training on Thursday, two weeks before the season begins on September 10.
The PGA Tour tournament in Chicago – less than 100 miles from Kenosha – began as scheduled. American golfer Cameron Champ – who has a black father and white mother – wore one black and one white shoe. On the white shoe he had written “Jacob Blake BLM”.