Rather than his team’s upcoming playoff game against Dallas on Tuesday night, an emotional Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was admittedly consumed by Sunday’s police shooting of African-American man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
‘It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back,’ said Rivers, a black 58-year-old son of an Illinois cop. ‘It’s really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach.
‘I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better. But we got to demand better.’
While responding to a domestic disturbance call, Kenosha police shot Blake seven times in the back on Sunday as he tried to access a vehicle where his three sons were seated. The incident wasn’t captured on police body cams, which were not in use, but rather by a cell phone belonging to an eyewitness. Video of the incident quickly went viral, sparking protests in Kenosha, not far from where Rivers played collegiately at Marquette.
According to the Blake family lawyer, the 29-year-old father of three is paralyzed from the waist down, and it will ‘take a miracle’ for him to walk again.
‘If you watch that video, you don’t need to be black to be outraged,’ Rivers said. ‘You need to be American and outraged.’
The Blake shooting occurred three months after another unarmed black man, George Floyd, was killed by Minneapolis police during a violent arrest for the alleged use of a counterfeit bill.
As a league, the NBA decided to use its platform to address social justice and protest racism in response to the police killing of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, an African-American EMT who was shot and killed by Louisville cops during a botched raid in March.
Since the NBA returned from its coronavirus hiatus near Orlando last month, players and coaches have been kneeling in protest during the national anthem, ‘Black Lives Matter’ has appeared on the courts, and the jerseys have been emblazoned with social justice terms, like ‘equality.’
Once again, Rivers and the rest of the mostly black league are confronting national issues of race and justice, only this time, it’s occurring amid the Republican’s virtual convention this week — an event that has bothered the Clippers’ head coach.
‘What stands out to me is just watching the Republican convention and viewing this fear, right?’ Rivers asked. ‘All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed.
‘We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that are denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung, shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear.’
To make his point, Rivers referenced the protests in Lansing, Michigan last April, when an armed, seemingly all-white militia stormed the state capital to demonstrate against COVID-19 lockdown measures.
‘It’s funny,’ Rivers continued. ‘We [African Americans] protest. They send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits.
‘They [militia members] go up to Michigan with guns. They’re spitting on cops. Nothing happens.’
For Rivers, whose father served in a police department outside of his native Chicago, the change needs to start in the academy.
‘The training has to change in the police force,’ Rivers continued. ‘The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else.’
The Clippers’ breezed to a 154-111 win over the Mavericks inside the NBA’s bubble at Disney World in Orlando to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.
Between Rivers’s pre- and post-game comments, his emotional pleas for change went viral, attracting the attention of Boston Celtics and civil rights activist Bill Russell.
‘Thank you @DocRivers for your words of wisdom and keeping this at the forefront. Proud to see the men in the bubble using their voices to try to enact real change!’ read a tweet from the 86-year-old Russell’s account.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, a rival of the Clippers, also voiced his support from outside the NBA bubble.
‘Proud to know you @DocRivers,’ Curry tweeted. ‘Sometimes we don’t know what to say every time this hurt happens. We Need Change! There is so much Truth in every Every word of this. Y’all wake up.’
Many NBA players inside the bubble have voiced frustration about being sidelined during this important moment for civil rights.
Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse stressed that many NBA players can empathize with Blake.
‘You wouldn’t believe how many of our players have been in this situation with law enforcement officers, with guns held to their head,’ Nurse said in a Sportsnet podcast.
Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown previously protested in Atlanta before the NBA season resumed in Florida, and now says he’s feeling somewhat helpless in the league bubble.
‘I do think the NBA has done a great job – initially – to kind of give us the platform to speak on certain things and things like that, but… do feel like it is kind of lessened as the playoffs have gotten started,’ Brown said.
‘Things have kind of diminished. I’m curious to see in what creative ways that people put their minds together to continue to push these conversations and make me feel more comfortable about playing basketball in the middle of like a lot of things that are going on.’
His teammate Marcus Smart agreed.
‘I understand it’s the playoffs and everything like that but we still have a bigger issue, an underlying issue that’s going on and the things that we’ve tried haven’t been working,’ Smart told reporters. ‘So we definitely need to take a different approach and we need to try new things out to try to get this thing working the way that we know it should and get our voices heard even more.’