Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer began his pregame Zoom interview with reporters with a call for change after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha.
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When Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer sat down for his pregame Zoom interview with the media ahead of Monday’s Game 4 against the Orlando Magic, he asked for the opportunity to first make a statement before taking any questions.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer prepares to talk to his team during a break in the first quarter against the Jazz. (Photo: Rob Gray, Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)
Budenholzer, who was wearing a shirt that read, “I Have a Dream,” referencing civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., didn’t want to talk about the game. He wasn’t offering an injury update or breaking down X’s and O’s. In fact, what he had to say had nothing to do with basketball at all.
Instead, Budenholzer opened the session talking about Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old, Black man who on Sunday was shot in the back by police in Kenosha.
RELATED:Kenosha police shoot man; video of incident appears to show officer firing several shots into his back at close range
“I’d just like to send out my thoughts and prayers to Jacob Blake and his family, another young Black man shot by a police officer,” Budenholzer said. “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 and in Milwaukee and in Kenosha. So, thoughts and prayers with Jacob Blake.”
A video that has gone viral on social media appears to show Blake being shot in the back several times at close range as he tried to get into a van where his three sons were sitting. The police had been called to a domestic incident at the 2800 block of 40th Street at 5:11 p.m., which is where the shooting later happened.
The video shows an officer pulling on the back of Blake’s shirt both before and while shooting Blake. Budenholzer said he had read and heard descriptions of what happened in the video but had chosen not to view it.
This past spring after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, numerous Bucks players — including star Giannis Antetokounmpo — took to the streets of Milwaukee to join and support Black Lives Matter protests. On June 7, the Bucks planned and held their own protest march.
RELATED: Bucks player Sterling Brown, tased and arrested by Milwaukee police in 2018 over a parking violation, leads social justice march
Over the past two seasons, they teamed with the Sacramento Kings to hold summits called, “Team Up for Change,” which was designed to address social injustice in both cities and the country at large. In December, the Bucks visited the Racine Correctional Institution to speak and play basketball with incarcerated individuals. The experience, which was unanimously described as moving and deeply meaningful by players, coaches and staff, was part of the NBA’s “Play for Justice” initiative and in partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Represent Justice.
« 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. We stand firmly against recurring 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 Acevado and countless other victims. We will work to enact policy change so these incidents no longer exist. »
Budenholzer said he had not yet discussed what happened to Blake or the circumstances surrounding that shooting with his players since they had last convened as a group for practice Sunday morning. However, he did note that the whole group would soon get together to talk about it and figure out how they can continue to advance the cause of social equality.
“I can tell you it’s on our players’ mind, it’s on our coaches’ mind, it’s on our staff’s mind, it’s on our organization’s mind,” Budenholzer said. “Certainly a lot of respect for (the fact that) we have a playoff game that’s very important to us, but an incident like this is more important than anything we’re doing in Orlando.
“I think there was a lot of talk before we came here that we needed to continue this conversation, we needed to be better as a country and have no more of these incidents and understand that Black lives matter.”
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