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Some questioned what the endgame was when the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a player strike by refusing to take the court for an NBA playoff game on Wednesday.
The NBA and NBPA announced on Friday that the playoffs will resume on Saturday after a three-day hiatus amid the player walkout. The agreement between the league and players to resume play included specific social initiatives, most notably the use of NBA arenas as polling places.
Strike leads to expanded voting access initiative
NBA owners agreed to work with local election officials to provide each league arena as a polling place for November’s elections or find an alternative if regulations don’t allow it.
From the agreement announced on Friday:
Every arena that is owned and operated by the team will work with local election officials to convert the facility into a polling place for the upcoming 2020 election. If the deadline to do that has passed, the team will work with officials to find a different use for the building to support the 2020 election.
After the announcement, the New York Knicks confirmed that Madison Square Garden will serve as a voting center.
Madison Square Garden is excited to support our community by partnering with NYC Board of Elections to serve as a polling site for residents to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general election. pic.twitter.com/DyapkzaOX8
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) August 28, 2020
The Los Angeles Clippers announced that the Forum in Inglewood will serve as a polling place. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer also owns the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers.
As part of our commitment to fighting voter suppression and empowering all citizens to determine meaningful progress, @theforum will serve as an official Vote Center where voters can vote in person or drop off mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) August 28, 2020
The agreement also announced the establishment of a social justice coalition focusing on criminal justice reform and the use of league advertising space “to increasing civil engagement and access to voting.”
Legislation advances after Bucks’ phone call
The Bucks also initiated local civic action thanks to a collaborative effort between players and management.
As the Bucks remained in their locker room instead of taking the court on Wednesday, they conducted a conference call with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to talk about reform at the government level. The Athletic’s Jared Weiss reports that Bucks ownership helped facilitate that phone call.
Hours later, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers called for a special vote on a police reform bill. Kaul applauded the Bucks for their stance.
Here's Attorney General Josh Kaul (@WisDOJ) on his phone call with the @Bucks. Kaul adds: "The Bucks have, frankly, done more to address these issues than @SpeakerVos or @SenFitzgerald have done. So I applaud them for stepping up and playing a leadership role in the debate." pic.twitter.com/tobXeFisHW
— Victor Jacobo (@victorjacobo_) August 27, 2020
“I commend the Bucks ... for stepping up and participating in the dialogue about these issues and making their voices known,” Kaul told reporters on Wednesday. “I applaud them for stepping up in a leadership role in the debate.”
The vote was formally scheduled on the Wisconsin Senate floor on Friday before majority GOP leadership refused to hold it.
While the bill hit a roadblock, the action of Bucks players and ownership pushed forward an agenda that will be ongoing in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting.
This kind of collaboration will be required for the NBA movement to advance beyond statements and stances. When players walk out, it makes a headlines and gets the attention of ownership. When ownership wields its power to get government leaders on the phone, tangible change can occur.
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