Orlando Magic exit playoffs with deeper purpose off the court

The Orlando Magic left the NBA campus. But the messaging and impact form their time there will carry on. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic left the NBA campus. But the messaging and impact form their time there will carry on. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic lost in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks but it was the organization’s Game 5 stance they took with the NBA’s top seed that will be remembered forever. 

The NBA has changed forever.

The Orlando Magic’s 2019-20 season is officially over and their awareness and attentiveness with the on-going issues of police brutality among African-Americans has reached an all-time high.

You would have to be sleeping under a rock to not know about the Game 5 walk-out from the Milwaukee Bucks after the news that another unarmed black man had been shot by police. This has been the ongoing theme before 2020 but was heightened by the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

This was different because there had only been one players’ walk-out of an NBA game in league history. That was in 1961, led by legendary center Bill Russell.

According to Des Bieler with the Washington Post, two Boston players and future Basketball Hall of Fame members, Sam Jones and Thomas Sanders, were refused service in the coffee shop at their team hotel in Lexington.

Back then the members of the African-American community were fighting for their right to be humans while also battling the issues of poverty and broken neighborhoods. It was a common practice to discriminate against the African-American community back in the early 1960s.

Back then the only way to combat racial inequality as an athlete was to not participate in very important games to make a statement, that way your words or presence will be felt regardless if a team loses or not.

This is bigger than basketball. You had to boycott to get them to feel you.

The Bucks did just that last Wednesday in refusing to play in a postseason game against the Magic to protest racial injustice in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake.

The bold move by the Bucks brought attention to the police department in Kenosha, Wis., because now they had to deal with the added pressure from sports media on top of the protest and civil unrest from murderers like Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot and killed two protestors under the guise of protecting property.

The Orlando Magic was the first team that followed suit (deciding not to play and refusing to accept a forfeit) in this historical movement for racial equality in America.

The NBA postponed all three of its Wednesday playoff games, and other athletes took their lead in deciding not to play as well. The WNBA canceled all three of its Thursday games, following the Bucks’ lead. Several MLB teams also made demonstrations before walking off the field and MLS teams chose to stand in solidarity after walking off the pitch.

During the Bucks’ press conference last Wednesday, they clearly looked displeased with the Jacob Blake incident that happened. They were refusing to play because of it.

“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball,” said Sterling Brown, himself a victim of police brutality in Milwaukee.

And the focus has now shifted forever because players are more in tune with who they really are as humans more than who they are as a basketball player or what entertainment they can provide for the average NBA fan. This issue is and always will be bigger than sports.


Because at the end of the day some of these African-American players in the NBA have children who will grow up looking similarly like the unarmed victims that are being gunned down by police. Players want to put an end to senseless killings from law enforcement.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Also, many of these million-dollar athletes have to sit down the same way an average African-American family does to instruct their children about how to handle themselves in the presence of law enforcement. These are the same values and ideals America says is available to all people in the national anthem but at times the actions do not include African-Americans.

These issues have been going on forever and it is not something the players in the NBA are going to let slide or move past without addressing anymore. This is bigger than a game.

NBA players promised not to stand on the sidelines and let the moment pass them. They wanted to use their voice, their presence and their platform to keep discussions of racial justice at the forefront.

The Jacob Blake shooting very much cut a deep hole within the league. It felt like their efforts were ringing hollow. To many, this was a personal reminder of how far this country still has to go.

It is not that they have not done anything. LeBron James created his group to promote voting rights and register new voters, especially in minority communities and disadvantaged communities.

Coach Steve Clifford of the Magic has spoken at length about his interactions with Desmond Meade, part of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition which has been working to restore voting rights to felons released from prison.

The Magic themselves had a ZOOM call with Orange County Sheriff John Mina where they asked questions about police tactics and what Orange County is doing to improve relationships with the community. They also asked direct questions about the shooting of Salaythis Melvin from early August, which has sparked protests in the city.

Michael Carter-Williams said they came away from the call dissatisfied with some of his answers, but still ultimately encouraged the dialogue would continue.

Now when the Magic start back next season they will be more informed and socially aware on how to handle future police killings.

Next. Listening is only the first step to change. dark

That work will continue. It has to continue as these players take a leadership role.