PHOENIX – When the Milwaukee Bucks declined to take the floor for Game 5 of their series with the Orlando Magic Wednesday in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, their seismic decision reverberated throughout professional sports. One by one, the NBA’s three Wednesday playoff games were postponed. Hours later, the Milwaukee Brewers also elected not to play in their Wednesday night contest with the Cincinnati Reds.
Multiple Major League Baseball teams followed their lead. The Arizona Diamondbacks did not on Wednesday, but on Thursday elected not to play.
“Today is not necessarily about not playing. It’s about creating an avenue to discuss why we aren’t playing. … It’s about making people better, making people aware,” pitcher Archie Bradley said.
The team said it will donate a game check toward a social justice charity.
“This is what needed to be done today,” pitcher Jon Jay said.
Despite limited player discussions before Wednesday’s game involving both the Diamondbacks and the visiting Colorado Rockies, both teams elected to play at Chase Field. Only Rockies outfielder Matt Kemp, who is Black, decided not to play Wednesday, writing on Instagram that he “could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel.”
“We will support whatever the players decide to do,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said Thursday before the team made a decision.
Blake, who is Black, was shot multiple times by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Elsewhere in Valley sports, the Phoenix Mercury’s game against the Connecticut Sun was postponed as the WNBA followed the NBA’s lead. The team posted a statement on Twitter, that read, in part, “We will not play tonight. Find a way to understand why.”
Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals announced Thursday that they had canceled workouts.
“We have the day off today to educate and reflect on who we are as individuals and where we need to progress as people,” running back Kenyan Drake wrote on Twitter. “Honored to be in an organization of men and women who lead the charge for change in this country.”
In a Zoom call with reporters, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “What happened to Jacob Blake was horrendous and it has to stop. I know it sounds hollow at times because you hear the same things over and over but we wanted to make sure our players know we support them.”
Meanwhile, Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio caused a stir on social media when he attacked NBA players for considering a boycott of the remainder of the 2020 season, saying, “I really hope these guys follow through with this easy layup so we don’t have to listen to any more whiny bitches.”
In a statement, Suns Managing General Partner Robert Sarver said, “While I can’t relate to what our Black players are feeling and experiencing today, I sympathize with them, listen to them, and support them. I remain personally ready, willing and able to work side by side with our Suns, Mercury and other WNBA and NBA players and coaches to bring about criminal justice reform.
“We have done it before locally, fighting discriminatory legislation in our state and unfair sheriffing in our county, specifically advocating to defeat SB-1070 that legalized racial profiling in 2010. Together we can engage again to bring about positive change toward racial equality.”
The decision to postpone and boycott events has been a challenging one for many clubs. Lovullo noted that the Diamondbacks and Rockies communicated back and forth about their thoughts on the matter, but he was unsure if players from both teams met together during the decision-making process.
First baseman Christian Walker, whose wall-scraping single just missed walking the club off with a grand slam, offered insight into how the players made their decision to play Wednesday.
“Collectively, both teams felt like playing the game tonight was the way we wanted to go, to be honest,” he said. “I wouldn’t consider myself in the decision-making group on this team or anything like that, so I feel like I didn’t have too many conversations about it.
“There was conversations had but like I said, the focus was on going out and getting the team back on track and winning a baseball game.”
Arizona and Colorado’s counterparts in the National League West all postponed Wednesday’s games to Thursday.
Seattle Mariners players voted not to play against the San Diego Padres. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts determined he would not play against the San Francisco Giants, and manager Dave Roberts said he would not manage if the team played.
“For me, no matter what, I wasn’t going to play tonight,” Betts said. “There’s a lot going on in the world and change needs to be made. I have to use my platform to at least get the ball rolling. I talked to my teammates and told them how I felt, and they all were by my side.”
_ Cronkite News reporter Nick Hedges contributed to this report.