Inside a fan-less Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night, it seemed like business as usual as members of the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks hit center court for a normal tip-off.
However, once reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo gained the first possession for the Bucks, both teams, including the coaching staffs on the sidelines, took a knee. They repeated the act once the Pistons got the ball, too.
The peaceful act happened a day after prosecutors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, decided not to file criminal charges against the police officers in the August shooting of Jacob Blake. Nearly five months earlier, the Bucks boycotted Game 5 of their first-round playoff matchup versus the Orlando Magic on Aug. 26 from inside the Orlando bubble in response to Blake’s shooting. The boycott was the beginning of a three-day halt in the NBA.
Bucks players were in constant contact within a group chat Tuesday, voicing their frustrations and concerns on the ruling. There were frequent conversations about what they wanted to do before deciding on the kneeling gesture.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he also talked to a few members of the team following Monday’s 125-115 win over the Pistons, in anticipation of Tuesday’s ruling.
“Hopefully all of us are listening and all of us are learning and all of us are growing,” Budenholzer said. “But without a doubt, myself as a coach and myself who works with a lot of amazing people, particularly young African-American men, that this stuff is very important to and they’ve had their own personal experiences that they’ve shared individually with me or collectively with our group, you can’t help but sit and listen and grow, empathize. Know that you can probably never really truly understand what a lot of people have been through but myself, we try to do better.”
Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times by Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey, who is white, on Aug. 23. Blake was left paralyzed. The shooting, which occurred in front of Blake’s three children and was captured on video, prompted large protests in Kenosha, with more than 250 people arrested during several days of unrest.
The other two police officers at the scene — Brittany Meronek and Vincent Arenas — also will not face charges, according to Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley.
Bucks center Brook Lopez, speaking before Wednesday’s game, described a feeling of “helplessness” after learning about the ruling.
“It’s obviously disappointing. Very disheartening. I get a sense personally of helplessness. I can’t imagine being in Jacob Blake’s position or his family’s position or people that have been in or will be in similar situations that he was in, in that moment,” Lopez said, adding that he believes the Bucks’ actions didn’t go in vain. “Just that helpless feeling. It’s like what do you do at this point?
“To me, it seems that the officers reaction, if he was trained to shoot until there was no action or there’s no movement or whatever it was. To shoot someone seven times, if he may have a knife or whatever and he’s getting in his car, it seems so excessive in comparison. Again, I can’t help to feel helpless.”
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