NBA Boycott Comes On Four-Year Anniversary of Colin Kaerpernick’s First Protest

GETTY Referees stand on an empty court before the start of a scheduled game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic for Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 26, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

On August 26, 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down during the United States of America’s national anthem.

Four years later, the Milwaukee Bucks have decided to boycott their Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic in similar protest, this time in response to the recent police shooting of Kenosha, Wisconsin man Jacob Blake.

While the Magic hit the court in Orlando, Florida ahead of the scheduled 4:30 p.m. ET tip-off, the Bucks remained in their locker room in refusal to play and to make a statement regarding the shooting, which happened less than 45 minutes away from Milwaukee.

Kaepernick’s First Protest

While kneeling for the national anthem is the action that most people associate with players protesting, the first time that the former Nevada Wolfpack quarterback spoke out was actually by sitting down.

The 49ers were playing the Green Bay Packers in their third preseason game of the 2016 season, which they went on to lose, but the shockwaves of the action were the primary news of the game.

Kaepernick spoke to NFL media after the game to explain the logic behind his actions and why he decided to sit during the anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick added to his initial comment, saying that he was not worried about running it by anyone in the 49ers organization due to him wanting to ensure he could do what he thought was necessary.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he said. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

This led to a mass protest from NFL players and staff in 2017, which saw members of every franchise either take a kneel or express solidarity.

Four Years Later

While the NBA elected to cancel all of the playoff games on Wednesday after the Bucks’ boycott and then reports that the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder would also boycott their Game 5, the decision to boycott still came first.

Milwaukee’s proximity to Kenosha, Washington and the incident undoubtedly plays a factor in the team’s decision, which came after Bucks guard George Hill spoke openly about being in the bubble during the shooting and ensuing protests.

“We can’t do anything [from Orlando],” Hill said, per Yahoo Sports. “First of all, we shouldn’t have even came to this damn place, to be honest. I think coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are.”

According to ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is organizing a meeting in the Orlando bubble to address the concerns and actions of the players.

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