Boston Celtics and Miami Heat players released a joint statement moments before tipoff on Wednesday, stating that they will "play tonight's game with a heavy heart" after the Kenosha County (Wisc.) district attorney decided not to prosecute the police officer who shot Jacob Blake while "knowing that protesters in our nation's capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on."
The statement came as protestors wreaked havoc in Washington D.C. as Congress met to formally count the electors who will make Joe Biden president on Jan. 20. There was a violent breach of the U.S. Capitol by President Trump supporters, forcing the building to go into lockdown as lawmakers were rushed to safety.
"2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed," the statement read. "The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today's protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.
"We have decided to play tonight's game to try to bring joy into people's lives. But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America. #BLACKLIVESSTILLMATTER"
The teams held a players-only meeting between members of both teams in the Heat locker room, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Celtics coach Brad Stevens met with media prior to Wednesday night's game, summarizing his reaction to the day's developments as "sad."
"I guess the way I look at it is, I think we all hope that the people we elect to lead us are supposed to be modeling leadership, will do so in a way that is motivated by serving others, by showing compassion, by acting gracefully," Stevens said. "Instead we elected a President ... and others, that have not shown that kind of grace. It's been consistent. They've operated at a 'win at all costs' attitude.
"Our sports world is a lot less important, obviously. I always thought if you operate at a 'win at all costs' attitude, it's going to be a pretty fulfilling ending. In this situation, it's a disgraceful ending."
The players returned for warmups, but both teams knelt during the national anthem. According to Yahoo Sports, ESPN did not broadcast it.
According to NBC's Tom Winter, "law enforcement made at least 15 arrests today in D.C. including multiple people charged for assault and 4 people for possession of a gun and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device."
NBPA executive director Michele Roberts shared with ESPN her outrage Wednesday's mob and how it reflected a racial double standard in America.
"We saw a Black police officer being chased and players said to me, ‘So this is what they can do?’" Roberts told ESPN. "And people don’t get this privilege stuff? I know how they’re feeling. I am so angry and pained—and refusing to cry."
Meanwhile, in Kenosha on Jan. 5, a Wisconsin prosecutor declined to file charges against a police officer who shot Jacob Blake, leaving him paralyzed. The shooting occurred on Aug. 23, 2020, three months after George Floyd died while being violently restrained by police officers in Minneapolis.
Floyd's death sparked protests across the world as the Black Lives Matter movement fought and advocated for racial and social justice.
Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley said that investigators determined that Blake had a knife when police responded to a report of someone trying to steal a car. Officer Rusten Sheskey said he, “feared Jacob Blake was going to stab him with the knife."