Raptors consider boycotting Game 1 over Jacob Blake shooting

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The NBA season could be paused once more.

Following the Sunday shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police, the Toronto Raptors held a team meeting to discuss the horrific incident and are considering boycotting Game 1 of their second round series against the Celtics to bring renewed focus to the social justice cause.

Before entering the bubble in Orlando, injured Nets star Kyrie Irving led dozens of NBA players on a call in which many said they should sit out the restart of the season in order to prevent distracting from the Black Lives Matter movement. In the agreement to continue playing, the league emblazoned courts with “Black Lives Matter” and allowed players to wear messages of social activism on the back of their jerseys.

But little has changed.

“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,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said Tuesday. “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.”

Boston’s Jaylen Brown was also open to boycotting the team’s next game.

“I guess [boycotting is] something you talk about with your team, for sure. We haven’t talked about that as the Celtics. But those emotions are real. That is real,” Brown said. “I’m just happy by the grace of God that Jacob Blake is still alive, because the police who shot him, that wasn’t their intention. They shot him to kill him, and that’s a problem in this country. There’s a million different ways you could have dissolved that situation and your thought was to kill him. That was the best method. It’s definitely hard to digest or to process how you feel about it. Everything on me was on fire yesterday, waking up to it. To see people changing the framing of what he did in the past, in terms of, ‘Well, he was a convicted felon,’ or, ‘Well, he had a history of resisting arrest or possibly had a weapon.’

“That is not [an] unfamiliar framework in this country. We’ve seen that time and time again. That does not constitute or justify the fact that you are shooting someone seven times in the back or killing them, at all. Anybody who thinks differently is no friend of mine.”

Marcus Smart was also unsure what step the players should take next.

“We tried to be peaceful, kneeling, we tried to protest,” Smart said. “And for us, we tried to come out here and get together and play this game and try to get our voice across. But it’s not working, so obviously something has to be done. Right now, our focus shouldn’t really be on basketball. I understand it’s the playoffs and everything like that, but we still have a bigger underlying issue that’s going on and the things that we’ve tried haven’t been working, so we definitely need to take a different approach and we definitely need to try new things out to get this thing working the way that we know it should and get our voices heard even more.”

Though the NBA has long been the most socially active league, VanVleet acknowledged words aren’t enough.

“We’ve gotta take responsibility as well. Like, what are we willing to give up?” VanVleet said. “Do we actually give a f— about what’s going on, or is it just cool to wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the backdrop, or wear a T-shirt? Like, what does that really mean? Is it really doing anything?”

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