The National Basketball Association playoffs are set to resume Saturday after players reached a deal with the league that includes increased access to voting in the U.S. presidential election.
The deal follows a player-led protest sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. NBA games were postponed beginning Wednesday as players protested what they see as police violence and injustice against Blacks.
In addition to the NBA games, several Major League Baseball contests, Major League Soccer matches, Women's National Basketball Association games and National Hockey League playoff games also were postponed.
Additionally, play was halted at the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament in New York, while a number of National Football League teams refused to hold practices Thursday.
Social justice coalition
NBA players and league officials reached their agreement to resume games following a Thursday meeting.
The deal includes a plan to set up a social justice coalition, made up of players, coaches and owners, which would focus on a range of issues, including voting access and advocating for police and criminal justice reform.
Under the terms of the agreement, team owners who control their arena property will work with local officials to allow their buildings to be used for voting stations during the 2020 general election.
The players and the league also agreed to work with TV networks to create advertisements during the remaining playoff games that would encourage people to vote.
"These commitments follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, the players' union, said in a joint statement.
Los Angeles Lakers basketball superstar LeBron James tweeted Thursday, "We Demand Change. Sick of It."
Change is the theme of what is being called a sports boycott, not a strike.
The NBA season is already abbreviated because of the coronavirus. Games are being played in a single arena in Orlando without fans.
President Donald Trump criticized the NBA walkout Thursday:
"They've become like a political organization, and that's not a good thing. I don't think that's a good thing for sports or for the country."
Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, told CNN the boycott was "absurd and silly."
But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said athletes must not keep quiet.
"This moment demands moral leadership. And these players answered by standing up, speaking out and using their platform for good. Now is not the time for silence," Biden tweeted.
His running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, added in her own tweet, "It takes monumental courage to stand up for what you believe in. NBA and WNBA players, keep standing up and demanding change."
Began with Kaepernick
The latest campaign of athletes speaking out against racial injustice began four years ago this week when quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem before a preseason game.
There has been sharp criticism, including from Trump, from those who say the protests taking place during the anthem are disrespectful to the country and the military.