The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday to demand justice over the shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police which left the 29-year-old paralyzed from the waist down. The players’ decision was fully supported by the team’s management as well as other current and former NBA players.
Minutes before tipoff, the Bucks, who clinched number one seed in the Eastern Conference, had not yet shown up on the court as their opponents waited. When word got around the Bucks had boycotted the game, the Orlando Magic returned to their locker room.
In a statement delivered by guard George Hill, alongside teammate Sterling Brown – who himself is a victim of a 2018 police brutality incident – the team called for all the officers involved in the incident to be held accountable and requested the Wisconsin legislature to reconvene to “address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.”
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“Over the last few days in our own state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha and the additional shooting of protesters,” Brown said. “Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
Hill added: “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.”
In the wake of the boycott, the NBA released a statement announcing the other two games scheduled for Wednesday had also been postponed.
Meanwhile, the officer who fired the shots at Blake was identified by the Wisconsin Department of Justice on Wednesday. In a statement, the department said officer Rusten Sheskey, a 7-year veteran, fired seven shots into Blake’s back, adding he was the only officer who discharged his weapon. All the officers involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave.
Providing further details on the incident, the department said Blake “admitted that he had a knife in his possession” during the “investigation following the initial incident.”
“DCI agents recovered a knife from the driver’s side floorboard of Mr. Blake’s vehicle. A search of the vehicle located no additional weapons,” the statement said.
According to the department, officers responded to the scene of the August 23 incident after a “female caller reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises.”
The statement added: “During the incident, officers attempted to arrest Jacob S. Blake, age 29. Law enforcement deployed a taser to attempt to stop Mr. Blake, however the taser was not successful in stopping Mr. Blake. Mr. Blake walked around his vehicle, opened the driver’s side door, and leaned forward. While holding onto Mr. Blake’s shirt, Officer Rusten Sheskey fired his service weapon 7 times.”
A family attorney told CNN Blake did not have any weapon in the SUV earlier on Wednesday.
“I can’t speak directly to what he owned but what I can say is that his three children were in the car,” Patrick Salvi said. “That was on the forefront of his mind. That is the most important thing to him in his life — his family and his children.”
Blake’s uncle also told CNN they did not want to have any conversation with the officer.
“We just want to make sure the supervisors, those who are in charge, understand that (Blake’s) mother and … his father just want justice,” he said. “We don’t want to talk to him. He should have to deal with the system that’s in front of him, and we need to make sure that that system works.”
Family attorney’s account after shooting
In a statement after the shooting, family attorney Ben Crump said Blake was trying to deescalate the incident before the police arrived and walked to his car to check on his children. His children, aged 3, 5 and 8, were in the SUV and witnessed the shooting which left their father critically injured.
“Blake was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him. As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point blank range. Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father,” the statement said.
“We all watched the horrific video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back several times by Kenosha police. Even worse, his three sons witnessed their father collapse after being riddled with bullets. Their irresponsible, reckless, and inhumane actions nearly cost the life of a man who was simply trying to do the right thing by intervening in a domestic incident. It’s a miracle he’s still alive.”