LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A small number of protesters carrying signs and shouting into megaphones briefly blocked at least two buses chartered by the NBA from entering the Walt Disney World campus on Saturday night, with the group saying it wanted LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and other top players to take notice.
The group blocked charter buses carrying members of the news media and some NBA staff, but no players or team personnel. Among their chants: “Black lives matter” and “LeBron, can you help us?” Some also carried signs with messages such as “Russell Stand With Us.”
The protesters assembled near one of the entrances and were not inside the so-called bubble, where teams, NBA staff and others have been for more than two months in some cases for the resumption of the season. They appeared to have gathered on a road that is open to the public, then stopped buses on an access road near a primary entrance to the resort.
All entrances to the bubble, whether it is the hotel properties or the arenas where games are played, are secured by law enforcement, security officers or both.
It was not known if they were able to be seen by any buses carrying players. At least one of the buses carrying players from the Los Angeles Lakers-Houston Rockets game Saturday night had left the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex before the first protest was noticed.
Calling attention to racial inequality and police brutality has been a top priority of the NBA restart, for both players and the league itself. Playoff games stopped for three days last month in response to player protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police as he attempted to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle with three of his children inside. Dozens of players have also spoken out with calls for justice in the case of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot when police officers burst into her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation on March 13.
The protesters outside the Disney complex on Saturday — through messaging on some of the shirts they wore and signs they carried — made clear that they were trying to draw attention to the case of Salaythis Melvin, a Black man who was fatally shot in the back by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy last month. Sheriff’s officials have said Melvin was armed; attorneys for his family have said he posed no threat to the deputy involved.
The mall where Melvin was shot is about 15 miles from the site of the NBA restart.