Bucks demand accountability for Jacob Blake shooting: 'Our focus cannot be on basketball'

Hours after the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a walkout of the NBA playoffs on Wednesday, players addressed media in the NBA bubble with a statement on why they declined to take the floor against the Orlando Magic.

Point guard George Hill addressed the media and explained that players wanted to gather a statement before addressing their stance. Forward Sterling Brown — who has been on the receiving end of police brutality — then read from the team statement while surrounded by his Bucks teammates.

‘Our focus cannot be on basketball’

“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American community,” Brown read. “Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.

“Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we have seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there have been no actions, so our focus cannot be on basketball.”

‘Demand the officers be held accountable’

Hill then read the remainder of the statement, demanding action from Wisconsin lawmakers and law enforcement after the police shooting of Blake.

“When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable,” George continued. “We hold ourselves to that standard and in this moment, we are demanding the same from lawmakers and law enforcement.

“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin state legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”

Players don’t address playing plans

The players then walked off as a group while declining to address a question about whether they plan to continue playing basketball this season. The fate of Thursday’s NBA games and beyond are unclear.

All of Wednesday’s NBA playoff games were postponed as players took a stand after video released Sunday night showed police shooting Blake multiple times in the back. Blake, a 29-year-old father of three, is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his father.

Brown’s history with Milwaukee police

Brown has himself been on the receiving end of police brutality. In January 2018, a Milwaukee police officer confronted Brown as he was standing in front of his Mercedes in a drug store parking lot. The officer called for backup after escalating a verbal altercation, prompting at least five others officer to arrive on the scene.

Sterling Brown joined George Hill in leading the Bucks in their protest statement. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Sterling Brown joined George Hill in leading the Bucks in their protest statement. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Bodycam video released months after the incident showed the officers then took Brown to the ground and used a Taser on him. Brown was then handcuffed and arrested. No charges were pressed against Brown, who was cited for a parking violation in the incident.

Brown filed legal action. He wrote in July in the Players’ Tribune that the city of Milwaukee offered him $400,000 to remain silent about the incident, an offer he said that he rejected. Brown explained how the experience affected him in the essay written after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“Eventually they put me in the back of the cop car and took me to the police station, where I was thrown in a cell for a few hours,” Brown wrote. “For what? Because I was a Black man with a nice car in the hood. But while I was in there I had time to think and reflect. I had time to turn my anger into fuel.”

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