Top Pence aide calls NBA player strike over Jacob Blake shooting ‘absurd’ and ‘silly’

A Trump administration official on Thursday dismissed the decision of NBA teams to refuse to play Wednesday night’s playoff games to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake, calling it “absurd” and “silly.” 

“If they want to protest, I don’t think we care,” Marc Short, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “If they want to say, ‘we’re not going to play more games,’ I don’t think that’s a position that you’re going to see us speak out on one way or another.” 

Professional sports in the U.S. came to a sudden halt Wednesday after players on the Milwaukee Bucks decided to sit out from their upcoming playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha Police Department officer on Sunday as he attempted to enter his vehicle. Cellphone footage of the incident rapidly spread across social media and reignited protests over police brutality in Kenosha and other U.S. cities. 

Bucks players said in a statement that their decision to not play stemmed from a lack of action on issues including police accountability and criminal justice reform. Bucks Guard George Hill called on the Wisconsin legislature to reconvene “after months of inaction.”

The NBA followed the Bucks’s decision by announcing that all of Wednesday night’s playoff games would be postponed. Players from the WNBA, which has dedicated its 2020 season to the Black Lives Matter movement, the MLB and the MLS also elected to postpone their games.

The Bucks’s decision to strike marked the first time players refused to play since 1961, when some players on the Boston Celtics sat out from a game to protest racial injustice.

The decision was applauded by Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley, who called it “gratifying” to see people seriously grappling with the shooting. But Trump administration officials have called into question its usefulness. 

Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and son-in-law of President Trump, said Thursday on CNBC that NBA players were “fortunate” to have enough wealth to “take a night off from work.” He also called it a “luxury” to decide to whether to play Wednesday’s games. 

“With the NBA, there’s a lot of activism and I think that they put a lot of slogans out, but I think that we need to turn that from slogans and signals to actual action that’s gonna solve the problem,” he added.

Short echoed those comments while speaking on CNN, claiming that the NBA had been silent on issues related to China and repression of its people. 

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is currently investigating the incident surrounding the police shooting of Blake, who remains in critical condition. His family has said he is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

In recent days, protests have given way to violence and the widespread damage of public property. Speaking during the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Pence condemned the violence in Kenosha and repeated Trump’s vow to restore law and order. 

“Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down,” he said. “We will have law and order on the streets of America for every American of every race, and creed and color.”  

Tags Donald Trump Jared Kushner Marc Short

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