On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks—the Eastern Conference's top seed and a major NBA title contender—refused to play Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. The team did not leave the locker room, citing the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
The decision sent a shockwave through the rest of the NBA, and the larger sports world. The NBA has not played a game since, with players holding what were reportedly some pretty heated, raw meetings about the state of play. For a while, there were concerns about the playoffs returning at all, but the sides have come together to work out a plan.
Today, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBAPA executive director Michele Roberts released a joint statement, following a "candid, impassioned, and productive conversation" held on Thursday between players, coaches, and team owners. The league will be restarting play on Saturday, with the three games that were slated to occur on Wednesday. The Bucks-Magic Game 5, Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder Game 5, and Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers Game 5 were all postponed.
The decision comes with some further efforts by the league to help throw its resources behind issues that are important to the players. This includes a new "social justice coalition," to be established immediately be the league, efforts to aid those in NBA cities vote in the upcoming 2020 general election, and other initiatives "focused on economic empowerment in the Black community."
"These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black Community," the statement reads. "We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together — in Orlando and in all NBA team markets — to push for meaningful and sustainable change."
Silver also put out his own statement, with full-throated support for the players' concerns and push for change.
LeBron James, who has been extremely active in promoting social causes throughout his career, was reportedly one of the players skeptical about returning after Wednesday's events. Throughout the summer, he has been very active in voting rights initiatives, recently collaborating with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to recruit poll workers in swing state Black communities, per The New York Times. Some franchises, including the Atlanta Hawks, had already announced plans to use their arenas as giant polling locations within their communities. Georgia is one of the states where voter disenfranchisement within the Black community has been a major issue.
These social issues have been at top of mind since May, with the shootings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor serving as a backdrop for things as the NBA planned the Orlando bubble in the first place. This latest player strike looks to help ensure that the league and its owners put their money where their mouths are.