NBA playoffs shut down for second straight day as players call for change

AP photo by Kevin C. Cox / The court is empty after the scheduled tipoff time for an NBA playoff game Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. All three postseason games that day were called off as players elected to sit out, and three more were postponed Thursday.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - An unprecedented NBA walkout protesting racial injustice postponed a second day of the league playoffs Thursday, although players pledged to finish the postseason even as they wrestled with their emotions about wanting to bring change in their communities.

For now, the basketball courts remained empty in the NBA's bubble environment at Walt Disney World, where the league returned to play in late July after a four-month shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. Athletes across the sports world also said they weren't ready to resume playing Thursday.

They are still angry and emotional after the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. NBA players considered not playing again the rest of the postseason and going home to their communities, although they decided Thursday they wanted to continue, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

"We obviously agree that whether we play or not, we still have to do our best to make change and we still have to do our part in the community," Orlando Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams said in a video interview with a team public relations official.

"It's obviously not easy, given everything that's going on. But I think that if we can go out there and do our best and also have a list of things that we want to accomplish, everything gets completed."

The NBA decided to postpone three more games Thursday to join the three that weren't played Wednesday. NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the league hoped to resume today or Saturday.

A second night of WNBA regular-season games were postponed, too, as other athletes and teams pondered whether they would play on.

"This is not a strike. This is not a boycott. This is affirmatively a day of reflection, a day of informed action and mobilization," WNBA players' union president Nneka Ogwumike said on ESPN.

The top men's and women's tennis tours had already decided they would pause play Thursday at the Western & Southern Open in New York, the NHL postponed two nights of playoff games, a number of NFL teams canceled practices and some college football teams - including Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference - did the same. In Major League Baseball, seven games were postponed, a second straight day of some teams - or in some cases, individuals - sitting as others kept going.

The sudden stoppages were reminiscent of mid-March, when the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jaz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. Other leagues quickly followed until the globe's sports landscape had almost completely come to a halt.

When NBA players agreed to resume their season, they made clear they intended to chase social justice reform just as passionately as a championship. The video of Blake's shooting on Sunday left them so disgusted and dispirited, though, that many of them wondered whether they should continue playing.

Players voiced their frustrations in a meeting Wednesday night, then continued talks Thursday morning. As they prepared to do that, NBA referees led a march around campus to show their support in the fight against racism.

Play had been set to resume at 4 p.m. with Game 6 of the Western Conference series between Utah and the Denver Nuggets. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors were also to begin their second-round series before the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks met in the night's finale.

It was the Celtics and the Raptors - the reigning league champions - who had been most vocal about the idea of not playing, but the Milwaukee Bucks acted first when they opted to remain in their locker room instead of playing their Game 5 against Orlando on Wednesday. Kenosha is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee.

Before coming to Florida, many NBA players wrestled for weeks about whether it was even right to play, fearing a return to games would take attention off the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in recent months.

They ultimately decided that playing would give them the largest platform, though it also provides a bigger target for critics.

The NBA's relationship with the White House eroded when Donald Trump was elected after President Barack Obama was close with some players and officials. Trump was critical of the league again Thursday.

"They've become like a political organization, and that's not a good thing," Trump told reporters, noting the league's ratings are down from previous seasons. "I don't think that's a good thing for sports or for the country."

Earlier Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said in a CNN interview that the NBA protests are "absurd and silly" when compared to their response to ongoing to human rights violations in China.