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Next Steps: How the Milwaukee Bucks are Leading the NBA Strike

The Bucks led the way to this moment. What comes next?

Milwaukee Bucks Players’ Statement Following Boycott of Game 5 of NBA Playoffs vs. Orlando | Milwaukee Bucks

On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks stopped being a basketball team, and became a civil rights organization.

Through their action, which was sparked by Bucks guard George Hill, Milwaukee led the way to grinding the sports world to a halt, as players across the NBA, WNBA, Major League Soccer, and Major League Baseball all decided to strike in solidarity. It’s difficult to believe at this point, but it almost didn’t happen:

“I came into the arena thinking I was going to play,” one Bucks player said.

Milwaukee’s coaches went through pregame media sessions. Brook Lopez and Eric Bledsoe were among the players who warmed up on the court.

But shortly before their Game 5 tipoff, set for 4 p.m. ET, the Bucks had a change of heart and decided not to play. They intended to sacrifice a playoff game, only to have their opponent, the league and players and teams from sports leagues around the country join them in solidarity.

The Bucks didn’t expect to be the thread that caused the NBA to unravel, one player said.

But once the decision was made, the team sprung into action and worked on determining next steps. A strike without a list of demands is essentially an empty gesture, and the team knew that. So they used the connections of Bucks owner Marc Lasry to get in touch with Wisconsin state leadership and determine what they need to do from here.

Inside the locker room, Bucks players were on a Zoom call with Wisconsin lieutenant governor Mandela Barnes and attorney general Josh Kaul, which had been facilitated by team owner Marc Lasry and senior vice president, Alex Lasry.

“They just wanted to know what they could do,” Barnes said. “I mean, they were very interested in a call to action. They wanted something tangible that they could do in the short and long term. They wanted the walkout to be Step 1.”

Because things came together so quickly, the wildcat strike came as a surprise to literally everyone else in the league. During the players’ meeting on Wednesday night, the Bucks’ peers voiced their displeasure with feeling like they were forced into this position. To their credit, both Kyle Korver and Giannis Antetokounmpo addressed the decision while still asserting their right to make it.

Several players questioned the Bucks on why they had decided to strike without consulting other teams or players. Sources described the questioning of the Bucks and their unilateral action as “uncomfortable.”

Bucks guard Kyle Korver said he understood why other players and teams were upset at being blindsided by Milwaukee’s move. According to sources, Giannis Antetokounmpo stuck up for his team. Then [Jaylen] Brown jumped in to defend the Bucks, saying they had nothing to apologize for.

So: what comes next? We don’t know yet, but we will soon.

This post can serve as an open thread for the events that are sure to come today, but we will continue providing updates as we can.

UPDATE: It appears that the players are indeed interesting in pursuing a resumption of the NBA Playoffs.

UPDATE: With rescheduled games happening as early as this weekend, the Bucks will likely be back in action soon enough. In the meantime, another meeting is scheduled to determine specific plans of action following this strike.

All of the reporting has come from the players meeting, and none yet has come from the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting that was scheduled to start at the same time. Presumably, the league’s owners will (or already have) committed to supporting certain plans of action, but details have not been made available yet.

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