The Milwaukee Bucks refused to take to the court today for the team’s scheduled game against the Orlando Magic in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who has reportedly been left paralyzed after being shot seven times in the back by a Milwaukee police officer.
In solidarity with the Bucks, players from the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers followed suit, likewise refusing to play in scheduled games.
Meanwhile, “TNT on NBA” still had a pregame show to produce, and a dramatic moment came at the beginning of the broadcast when commentator Kenny Smith walked off the set in solidarity with the players.
Smith, nicknamed “The Jet”, played with the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, and Denver Nuggets during his 10-year NBA career.
“As a Black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight,” Smith said as he removed his microphone and left the set.
“We’ll figure out what happens after that,” he added. “I just don’t feel equipped to be here.”
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) August 26, 2020
Chris Webber, Smith’s fellow “NBA on TNT” commentator and also a former NBA player, addressed his walk-off and offered some powerful words while holding back tears.
“I keep hearing the question, what’s next, what’s next,” he said. “Well, we gotta plan what’s next. We have to figure out what’s next.”
Expressing his pride for the players, Webber admitted he doesn’t know what “the next steps” are and “don’t really care what the next steps are. The first steps are to garner attention. And we have everybody’s attention around the world right now… we know it won’t end tomorrow, we know there’s been a million marches and nothing will change tomorrow.”
Citing the examples of assassinated civil rights activists Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers, Webber continued: “We’ve seen this, all of our heroes constantly taken down. We understand it’s not gonna end. But that does not mean, young men, that you do not do anything.”