Before Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer took any questions from reporters prior to Game 4 against the Orlando Magic, he wanted to address the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“I’d just like to send out my thoughts and prayers to Jacob Blake and his family,” Budenholzer began. “Another young Black man shot by a police officer. We need to have change. We need to be better. And I’m hoping for the best for him and his family. I’m hoping for the best as we work through this in Wisconsin, in Milwaukee and in Kenosha. So, thoughts and prayers with Jacob Blake.”
Kenosha police shot Blake on Sunday, and video of the shooting appears to show an officer firing several shots at close range.
Blake was airlifted to a local hospital where he is listed in serious condition.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation said early Monday that the involved officers, who were responding to a domestic incident, have been placed on administrative leave.
NBA players and coaches have been outspoken and adamant in their demand for social justice and racial equality.
Budenholzer, wearing an “I Have A Dream,” t-shirt, said the Bucks had not addressed the issue yet as a team.
“But I can tell you it’s on the players’ minds,” he said. “It’s on the coaches’ minds. It’s on our staff’s mind. It’s on our organization’s mind. Certainly, a lot of respect for a playoff game that’s very important to us. But an incident like this is more important than anything we’re doing in Orlando.
“There was a lot of talk before this that we needed to continue this conversation. We needed to be better as a country — have no more of those incidents and understand Black lives matter. So, maybe not between now and the game, but sometime soon, as a team, we can sit and discuss and share and just continue to push forward, try to find progress, try to find systemic change that’s lasting.”
After Milwaukee’s victory against Orlando, George Hill continued the conversation, frustrated and angered by what happened in Wisconsin.
“Watching stuff that happened in Wisconsin really breaks my heart,” Hill said. “”We’re down here playing in the bubble to do these things for social justice and all that, and to see it all still going on and we’re just playing the games like it’s nothing, it’s just a really messed up situation right now.”
Hill had a difficult time reconciling playing basketball while continuing to see incidents like the one in Kenosha.
Asked what players can do, Hill said, “We can’t do anything. First of all, we shouldn’t even have came to this damn place to be honest. Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are. But we’re here. So, it is what it is. We can’t do anything from right here. But definitely when it’s all settled, some things need to be done.”
He called for justice in the shooting.
“It’s just sickening. It’s heartless,” Hill said. “Like I said, you’re supposed to look at the police to protect and serve. Now, it’s looked at harass or shoot. To almost take a guy’s life. Thank God he’s still alive. I know the cops are probably upset he’s still alive. I know they surely tried to kill him. But to almost take a guy’s life, especially in front of one’s kids, that wasn’t resisting, in his back at point-blank range, is a heartless and gutless situation. We need some justice for that.”
The Bucks also released a statement.
“The Bucks organization is praying for the recovery of Jacob Blake, who was shot multiple times in the back by a police officer at point blank range in Kenosha, Wisconsin yesterday. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” the statement read.
“We stand firmly against reoccurring issues of excessive use of force and immediate escalation when engaging the black community.
“Our organization will continue to stand for all black lives as we demand accountability and systemic change on behalf of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sylville Smith, Ernest Lacy, Dontre Hamilton, Tony Robinson, Joel Acevedo and countless other victims. We will work to enact policy change so these incidents no longer exist.”
Los Angeles Clippers coach expressed his frustration and sadness.
“We’ve been processing the Wisconsin situation now for 58 years,” Rivers said. “That’s how old I am, and it just keeps happening over and over again. It’s just sad. It is. It’s just sad. That’s our process. I didn’t see it until late last night. Saw it on Ray Allen’s post, of all people. It’s just tough.”