Milwaukee Bucks wing Wesley Matthews said the team is not “apologetic” for boycotting Game 5 of their first-round series against the Orlando Magic Wednesday, a decision he said the team made organically.
“I feel like we did what any team would’ve done in that situation. And we’re not apologetic for what we did, what we feel is right,” Matthews said ahead of Saturday’s rescheduled Game 5 against the Magic. “Obviously, with communication it could’ve been a little bit better, but in a moment like that, sometimes there isn’t time for it.
“You can’t script change. You can’t script moments,” he added. “And we saw an opportunity to be with our brother, to show that we’re human, to show that this is visibly and emotionally and physically impactful even though we are here in the bubble, disconnected from the outside world in certain retrospect, that it still hits and it’s still a problem and a call to legislation to help.”
Matthews says the team has been in touch with Blake’s family in addition to other influential people. Police shot Blake, who is Black, seven times in the back last Sunday.
The Bucks’ boycott sparked several other sports leagues to protest games before resuming play. Their main intention was not only bringing insight to the shooting of Blake, but also voter awareness, social justice, racial equality and police reform in America. Matthews says it wasn’t thought about or planned ahead of time as they were “showing humanity” and they didn’t anticipate the reaction, while preparing to forfeit the game and go down 3-2 in the series.
“We didn’t think that this was gonna turn the way that it did, but we are grateful for the fact that, that moment, that pause, that postponement was able to help everybody reflect again and realize that everybody’s gotta step up,” Matthews said.
Coach Mike Budenholzer also called the process “organic” and said it was led by guys like assistant coach Darvin Ham, George Hill and Sterling Brown — who, himself, was a victim of police brutality after being tased by cops in January 2018. The act was a culmination of several events leading into the stance.
“The idea of going down 3-2 and making that sacrifice or giving that up for what we thought was more important and bigger than a game of basketball, a playoff game,” Budenholzer said. “A situation where we could be 3-2, I think the room, I don’t think anybody totally grasped exactly what was gonna happen, but certainly knew that this was possible and that this was big and there was no hesitation in regards to going down 3-2.”
Although Jaylen Brown is a member of the Boston Celtics — an Eastern Conference rival of the Bucks — he respected their decision, like many throughout the league.
“We came down here to use our platform, and that’s exactly what Milwaukee did; and we all saw its effect, we all saw the awareness that was raised,” Brown said Saturday. “So to be honest, I think in hindsight we will appreciate what Milwaukee did. There’s a lot of guys that came down here for reasons other than basketball, and to use our platforms; and Milwaukee did exactly that. And if necessary, it could be done again. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but using our platform is what a lot of guys came down here for.”