NBA playoff games were called off for a second straight day following a boycott by the Milwaukee Bucks but the league is optimistic of restarting games by the weekend after players voted to continue the season.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has said that it hopes to resume play in a day or two after a boycott by players protesting against racial injustice and police brutality, while President Donald Trump denounced the league as "like a political organisation."
The protest by the NBA players focused on the police shooting on Sunday of a Black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin - an incident reminiscent of the killing while in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May that sparked anti-racism demonstrations and civil unrest across the United States and elsewhere.
Blake's shooting has reverberated through US professional sports, with leagues postponing games and practices, even as Trump and White House officials criticised the NBA players, a majority of whom are Black, for their protests.
The NBA players decided not to end their season after meeting among themselves in the bubble-like campus at Disney World in Florida, where games are being contested due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The NBA Board of Governors met in an emergency session.
NBA Executive Vice President Mike Bass said the league is "hopeful" to resume games either on Friday or Saturday.
The league postponed its three playoff games scheduled for Thursday. The player protest began when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for Game 5 of their playoff series against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, and the NBA postponed all three games on that day's schedule.
The Bucks players said on Wednesday they were unable to focus on basketball due to the events in Kenosha, which is located about 60 km south of Milwaukee.
Several National Football League teams canceled their practices on Thursday, and ESPN reported that the National Hockey League will not play its scheduled playoff games on Thursday. Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA postponed games on Wednesday. The women's league postponed its Thursday games as well.
Trump, during a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Hurricane Laura, criticised the NBA.
"They've become like a political organisation and that's not a good thing. I don't think that's a good thing for sports or for the country," Trump said.
It is not the first time that Trump has blasted the league. Earlier this month, Trump said some of its players are "very nasty" and "frankly very dumb." Trump during his presidency has taken aim at Black athletes in particular, saying in 2018 of NFL players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality: "maybe you shouldn't be in the country."
Since the NBA restarted its pandemic-interrupted season, courts have had "Black Lives Matter" painted on them and many players have worn jerseys with social justice slogans.
NBA referees marched on Thursday around the Disney campus in support of the players, wearing black T-shirts with messages like "Everybody vs. Racism" and "Black Lives Matter."
...TODAY, I will be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha, WI to restore LAW and ORDER!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2020
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser, told Politico he planned to reach out to NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers about the player protests.
James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: "Change doesn't happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!"
Kushner told CNBC that NBA players were lucky to have enough money so they could skip work to protest, adding that they have "put a lot of slogans out" rather than "actual action."
Another White House official, Marc Short, was even more dismissive, calling the NBA players' protests "absurd" and "silly."
James, along with other NBA players and coaches, has been critical of Trump in the past. In 2018, he accused Trump of trying to use sports to divide Americans. Trump that year questioned James' intelligence.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 presidential election, and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris - the first Black woman on a major-party ticket - praised the actions of the NBA players.
Kenosha has been rocked by civil unrest and violence since Sunday, when police shot Blake, 29, in the back seven times at close range in an incident captured on video. Blake was left paralysed by the shooting and is being treated for his injuries.