Kenny Smith Walks Off TNT's Inside the NBA Set in Solidarity with Players' Jacob Blake Boycotts
“I think it's best for me to support the players,” Kenny Smith said
“This is tough,” Smith, a former NBA player himself, said on air Wednesday evening. “Right now my head is ready to explode, just in the thoughts of what’s going on.”
Police officers shot Blake, 29, seven times in the back on Sunday in front of three of his children. His family said Tuesday that he has been paralyzed from the waist down. The shooting of Blake has prompted protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as well as mass boycotts from athletes in the NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS.
“I think the biggest thing now is, as a black man, as a former player, I think it's best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight,” Smith said before taking off his mic.
“I just don’t feel equipped,” he added to host Ernie Johnson and fellow analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. “And I respect that,” Johnson said as Smith walked off.
The Milwaukee Bucks were the first team to boycott, saying they would no longer be competing in Game 5 against the Orlando Magic Wednesday. Bucks owners Marc Lasry, Wes Edens, and Jamie Dinan said in a later statement that they "wholeheartedly agreed" with the players' decision not to play.
"We fully support our players and the decision they made," said the joint statement, obtained by PEOPLE. "Although we did not know beforehand, we would have wholeheartedly agreed with them. The only way to bring about change is to shine a light on the racial injustices that are happening in front of us. Our players have done that and we will continue to stand alongside them and demand accountability and change."
The WNBA also postponed Wednesday's games, while players from the MLB and the MLS announced they would be following suit.
Tennis champion Naomi Osaka similarly pulled out of Thursday's 2020 Western & Southern Open semifinal match in response to the shooting of Blake. Hours later, the tournament announced it was pausing play for a day.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.