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Pro sports leagues reschedule games after postponements

An empty court and bench are shown with no signage following the scheduled start time in Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The professional sports schedule is expected to start getting busier on Friday after a string of postponements the past two days, but it won't be back to normal just yet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo
August 28, 2020 - 2:39 PM

One of the leaders on a Seattle team that decided to sit out a game Wednesday to protest racial and social injustice, pitcher Taijuan Walker hopes the actions of the Mariners and other big-league clubs will help keep the conversation going.

"I think it was huge for all the teams just to send that message," he said Friday, a day after being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. "Instead of just speaking words, we are going to take action."

Several Major League Baseball games were postponed this week along with games in the NBA, WNBA, NHL and Major League Soccer. The Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox sat out Thursday night's game in Buffalo, N.Y.

The decisions were in response to the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Wisconsin last weekend.

"Moving forward it's just to continue to talk about it, to have those really tough conversations and learn," said Walker, who was wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on a video call with reporters.

"And try to figure out a way to help, once you do learn and once you are educated."

Toronto was set to return to action Friday night against the visiting Baltimore Orioles. Walker, the lone African-American player on the Blue Jays, was tabbed to make his first start for Toronto on Saturday.

Walker is a member of The Players Alliance, a group of more than 100 current and former Black major leaguers working to combat racial injustice. Those players will be donating salary from Thursday and Friday in honour of Jackie Robinson Day.

It has been a whirlwind week for the 28-year-old native of Shreveport, La.

Walker, who lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz., said he has family in Louisiana — including his father in the coastal city of Lake Charles — who "lost everything," including property and belongings after Hurricane Laura lashed the state.

"It's pretty emotional for me and for them too," he said, his voice cracking.

The pro sports schedule was busier on Friday, but not quite back to normal. The NBA announced it will resume its playoffs on Saturday after three days without games.

The league and its players agreed to resume after establishing a commitment to form a social justice coalition, have franchise governors work with elections officials to convert team-owned arenas into voting locations for the U.S. election in November, and promote civic engagement and raise awareness around voter access.

"Just looking around (MLB), looking around the NBA, I think it's pretty cool to see how all athletes are showing how much they really do (care about) social justice," said Blue Jays second baseman Cavan Biggio.

"They put it in front of the sports, they put it in front of everything to raise awareness, to make sure that they see things to be right in this world. It's pretty cool to be here and witness it, to see it and to ultimately be a part of it."

The NBA Eastern Conference semifinal opener between the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, originally set for Thursday, will be played Sunday. The Raptors were one of at least four teams to cancel planned media sessions Friday as they awaited clarity on the NBA's situation in the league bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Milwaukee Bucks triggered postponements around the sports world by refusing to take the court Wednesday afternoon to protest social and racial injustice.

The NHL, meanwhile, had a second straight day without games on Friday. The league will resume its playoff schedule on Saturday with three games in Toronto and Edmonton, with players hoping to send a strong message.

"It's about any type of social injustice and racism. But obviously hockey is close to our hearts and right now it's about supporting our fellow players and be there for them and supporting them," Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said. "Within the hockey world we definitely want to accomplish some things, but then that also means to go broader than that and help in society as well and try to bring change."

The Vancouver Canucks, the lone Canadian team left in the NHL post-season, will play the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal on Saturday night in Edmonton.

Major League Baseball returned for Jackie Robinson Day on Friday, paying tribute to the man who broke the colour barrier in the sport, after 10 postponements the past two days.

"I don't think that this day can come on a more perfect day," said Biggio. "We're able to go out on the field and we're able to show our respect to a man who laid it all out for not only baseball, but all sports and society in general."

Tennis also returned after play was postponed Thursday. Canada's Milos Raonic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the final at the Western & Southern Open in New York.

Japan's Naomi Osaka reached the women's final after saying Wednesday she wouldn't play if the semifinals went ahead as scheduled on Thursday. Hours later, play was postponed on Thursday.

"I think all three organizations — ATP, WTA, USTA — stepped up and did the right thing," said Raonic, who's from Thornhill, Ont. "I just hope that's not the end of it."

A Major League Soccer game in Montreal between the Impact and Toronto FC was scheduled for Friday night after five of the league's last six games were postponed on Wednesday.

The league says Black Players for Change are scheduled to meet with MLS owners in an effort to create long-term change both inside and outside of MLS.

The WNBA was also set to resume with three games after postponements the past two days at its bubble in Bradenton, Fla.

Kayla Alexander of Milton, Ont., and Bridget Carleton of Chatham, Ont., were to play for the Minnesota Lynx against the Atlanta Dream in the first game on Friday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 28, 2020.

— With files from CP hockey writer Joshua Clipperton.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP and @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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