Who is Jacob Blake and why is there an NBA walkout in his name?

Story by CBC Kids News • Published 2020-08-27 14:19
UPDATE: On the afternoon of Aug. 27, the Raptors announced Thursday’s game had been postponed. The NBA hopes to resume playoffs on Friday or Saturday. The NHL has also reportedly cancelled all playoff games scheduled for Thursday.

Protests follow the shooting of another unarmed Black man

“Seeing Black men being shot every day, that hurts, man.”

That’s what Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam said at a press conference on Wednesday, as the team discussed refusing to play in the NBA playoffs to demand justice for Jacob Blake.

Blake is a Black man who was shot by a police officer in the U.S. on Sunday. He survived the shooting, but remains in hospital.

“It just feels like we're stuck,” Siakam said. “It feels like things are not changing.”

While the Raptors have yet to confirm whether they’ll be playing their game Thursday night, other teams from a number of different leagues — NBA, WNBA, MLS, MLB — have already announced they are refusing to play.

All of the NBA’s Wednesday games were postponed.

The court is empty for Game Five of the Eastern Conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic players decided not to play the game in protest. (Image credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Who is Jacob Blake?

On Aug. 23, Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father from Wisconsin, was shot by a police officer.

Although details are still coming out, there are reports that Blake was attempting to break up a fight between two women.

Police officers came to the scene. They wanted to talk to Blake, who walked away.

Cellphone video then shows Blake entering his car when he was shot several times.

He survived the shooting, but his family reports that it is unlikely he will be able to walk again.

Jacob Blake remains in hospital recovering from his gunshot wounds. ‘I don't want to be a burden on anybody. I want my babies,’ he told his mother. (Facebook)

Protests in his name

Protests against anti-Black racism are now happening to honour Blake, the same way they did following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

In Wisconsin, protests have occurred every day and night since Blake’s encounter with police.

Sports players and teams are also using their platforms to ask for change.

In particular, Raptors player Fred VanVleet said everybody needs to be held accountable for racial injustice — not just Black people and not just athletes.

“We’re the ones with the microphones in our face, we’re the ones who have to make a stand,” VanVleet said.

Possible impact

Some sports analysts, like Clay Travis, a host for Fox Sports Radio, don’t think this action will have much impact.

He tweeted this about the NBA: “There is no logic to this decision not to play. And no tangible result the NBA can provide.”

Others have pointed out that a walkout right now is less disruptive than it would be other years, because coronavirus restrictions mean there are no fans in the stands and no tickets to refund.

Raptor Fred VanVleet speaks to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. Rather than talk about game strategy, VanVleet was one of the players who shifted the conversation to Jacob Blake. (Image credit: NBA.com)

Still, VanVleet hopes this discussion will make a difference.

“The responsibility falls on us to make a change to stop being oppressed,” he said.

Raptors boycott ‘on the table’

The Raptors have been vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The team is currently in Florida playing in a sports bubble, but they haven’t let isolation put a stop to their push for social change.

On July 9, the Raptors arrived at the Disney bubble in buses reading 'Black Lives Matter.’ (Image credit: Raptors/Twitter)

The players wear Black Lives Matter jerseys and kneel during national anthems to show their support for the movement.

On Wednesday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the idea of a boycott was “on the table,” as he listened to his team and discussed options.

The NBA's board of governors will meet Thursday morning and likely address whether the playoff games will go on as scheduled.

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images and Kerem Yucel/Getty Images)

Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that Naomi Osaka would not play in her semifinal tennis match. She has now agreed to play after originally withdrawing as a sign of protest.