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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The most historic day in sports activism history began in an empty gym.

What happened: The Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the floor for Game 5 against the Magic, which led to all three NBA games being postponed — and most of the sports world following suit.

The backdrop: The Bucks' landmark decision came three days after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wis., 45 minutes south of Milwaukee.

  • The Bucks said in a team statement (video): "Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball."

Why it matters: Many NBA players decided to participate in the "bubble" because it offered a platform to bring awareness to social justice issues. That was enough, in their minds, to offset any concerns about sports being a distraction.

  • But after the Blake shooting video surfaced, players began to question whether the anthem kneeling, "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts and pre-approved jersey causes were making a difference.
  • Now, they've gone off script. And in doing so, they've taken the conversation about sports' role in society to a place it's never quite been before.

The big picture: The NBA's postponement started a chain reaction.

  • 🏀 WNBA: The six teams scheduled to compete yesterday chose not play. "We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA," the players' union said.
  • ⚾️️ MLB: The Milwaukee Brewers were the first team to pull the plug on their game. Later, the Seattle Mariners and L.A. Dodgers did the same. While the NBA and WNBA are no strangers to political activism, this type of stance is new in baseball.
  • ⚽️️ MLS: Though the night's first game between Orlando and Nashville was played as scheduled, the remaining five games were postponed as the players collectively decided not to take the field.
  • 🎾 Tennis: After Naomi Osaka withdrew from the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open (scheduled for today), tournament organizers suspended all Thursday matches.
  • 🏒 NHL: In a departure from other leagues, the NHL went ahead with both playoff games — one in Toronto and one in Edmonton.
Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
  • In Palmetto, Fla., after the WNBA postponed games, the Washington Mystics wore T-shirts with seven bullets on the back, to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

What's next: NBA players and coaches held a meeting Wednesday night inside a ballroom at the Coronado Spring Hotel. Teams were polled about how to proceed, and the Lakers and Clippers both voted to end the season, ESPN reports.

  • But it remains unclear what exactly the NBA can offer, and how far players are willing to go. While walking away sends a strong message, leaving the bubble would also reduce the power of the players' collective voices.
  • For now, all we know is that the six games scheduled for today will likely be postponed, and that the NBA's board of governors and the players will each meet at 11 a.m. ET to discuss next steps.

The bottom line: The NBA built a bubble to keep out the coronavirus, and so far, it's worked. But even the most stringent safety protocols and testing procedures couldn't shield it from America.

Go deeper

Nov 29, 2020 - Sports

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground, and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Nov 28, 2020 - Health

NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge

Houston Texans play the Detroit Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Photo: Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The NFL said it will prohibit all in-person team activities on Monday and Tuesday to help curb the spread of the coronavirus among teams.

Driving the news: The move comes "in response to the continuous increase in positivity rates throughout the country” and because “a number of players and staff celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with out-of-town guests," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo late on Friday, per the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.