LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors just over 24 hours from its scheduled tip, the possibility of boycotting the game remains on the table for both teams in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Blake, a Black man, was shot by police on Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Video of the shooting, taken from a window across the street, was distributed on social media.
“I think for us, we just wanted to make a difference, wanted to make a change, and seeing that shows that things are the same,” Raptors forward Pascal Siakam said Wednesday afternoon. “It makes you question, ‘Have you made the right decision or not?’ or whatever the case might be. And for me, it hurts. It hurts to see that.
“I’m sure you guys probably have questions, but I’m really not trying to answer anything. My head is not really at that. We came here for a reason and using our platform and wanting to send a message and hopefully bring awareness and bring a change, but I don’t know. It just feels like we’re stuck. It feels like we’re stuck. It feels like things are not changing. It feels like we’re not doing anything productive, basically. That’s how it feels.
“For me, those things hurt. I don’t care where you’re from, I don’t care what’s happening, just seeing that and just knowing that every day it happens and it feels normal, just seeing Black men being shot every day, that hurts, man. And yeah, I don’t know. I don’t even know how to respond to the video, and I refuse to watch it. I still don’t wanna watch it. So I don’t know.”
Players from the Celtics and Raptors had a players-only meeting Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of a boycott and other measures and are planning to meet again Wednesday night to further discuss the matter. The teams are staying at the same hotel.
Players from both teams spoke Wednesday, and the frustration among them over the ongoing issues of police brutality, social justice and racial inequality was palpable. Siakam struggled to say anything, just as Celtics forward Jaylen Brown did Tuesday. Celtics forwards Grant Williams and Jayson Tatum both expressed disappointment that incidents like the Blake shooting continue to take place.
And both coaches — Raptors coach Nick Nurse and Celtics coach Brad Stevens — said their goal is to try to help their players in any way they can, whether that be by listening or giving their opinion or supporting them in what they are trying to do. Nurse said multiple players on his team have said they are wondering whether they should leave the bubble, and Stevens said he’s just trying to be there for his team.
“It’s not about me, obviously,” Stevens said. “It’s about these guys are people first. They care deeply about the communities that they grew up in, the communities they live in, and everything that’s going on affects them emotionally and us emotionally just like everyone else. I think that’s something that sometimes when you turn on the TV you forget. I think that certainly they’re amazing. And we are in coaching as much as anything to just be a part of a team and to be around people and to share those moments that only a team can share in those rooms. The things I think you look back on in your career is you really think about the relationships that you built and everything else and how people from backgrounds, every background, can come together for a common goal. That’s what makes sports special and makes teams special. But at the end of the day, also, certainly we’re all affected by what’s going on around us.”