Celtics

Celtics, Raptors continue discussions about possibly boycotting Game 1

Fred VanVleet and Jaylen Brown.

Update: The Milwaukee Bucks have boycotted their Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. The Celtics and Raptors spoke prior to the Bucks’ decision. 

The Celtics and Raptors are engaged in ongoing discussions about potentially boycotting Game 1 of their second-round playoff series, which is scheduled to tip off Thursday.

“Obviously, if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have,” Celtics wing Jayson Tatum said Wednesday. “Everybody’s going to have to talk about it. We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world because it’s affecting us. It’s affecting everybody.”

Players on both rosters have been visibly upset following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wis. Video captured the officers firing shots at Blake while he was attempting to enter a vehicle in which his three children were in the back seat.

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“Just knowing that his kids, they’ll be traumatized the rest of their lives, seeing their dad get shot for no reason,” Tatum said. “I couldn’t even imagine how that’s going to affect them for the rest of their life. There’s a lot of things that are way more important than what we’re doing on the court.”

According to Tatum, the teams are “trying to figure out today” if they will participate in Game 1. Players from both teams met Tuesday evening to discuss possible courses of action and plan to do so again Wednesday.

Tatum and Celtics coach Brad Stevens indicated the decision ultimately falls to each individual. In order to compete, an NBA team must have a minimum of eight active players.

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“Nobody’s going to be judged one way or another,” Tatum said.

Asked what he wants to happen on Thursday, Stevens said, “It’s not up to me.”

“I totally understand anybody’s reaction to what’s going on outside of here and the desire to do more or the desire to not play or the desire to leave,” added Stevens. “It’s totally up to the individual. We’re here to support that.”

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse noted he has heard a couple of players talk about leaving the “bubble” campus and returning home. Nurse said he could not “put a percentage” on the chances of the boycott taking place.

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“Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to again try to demand a little more action,” Nurse said. “I think that’s really what they want. I think there’s enough attention, and there’s not quite enough action, and I think that’s what I can sense from the discussion.”

Regardless if Game 1 happens as scheduled, it’s clear players are intent on finding alternative ways to use their platforms. Players did not elaborate on what else is being considered.

Since arriving in Orlando for the restart of the season, teams have made a point to raise awareness about social justice issues by wearing pre-approved messages on the backs of their jerseyskneeling during the national anthem, and using their media availabilities to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed inside her apartment by Louisville police officers.

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“Really, all we can hope and try to do is impact change,” said Celtics rookie Grant Williams. “That’s something that we’ve always strived for. We started with the kneeling. We’re hoping that would send a message. It sent a message, but then, as that message gets pushed out, they stop showing us. Now, it’s more so about what can we do next to show not only that we’re involved but also show that we really care and that it saddens us to see nothing’s changing. There’s something that has to happen.”

Added Tatum: “How many points you score and games you win, that [expletive] don’t matter right now. Being a Black man in America is more important than what I’m doing out there on the basketball court.”

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