Doc Rivers was moved.
Like players across the NBA, the 76ers coach was disheartened with Tuesday’s decision in Kenosha, Wis., and the different police reaction to Wednesday’s violent armed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.
There were many tributes around the NBA on Wednesday night.
In addition to kneeling, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat said in a joint statement they were playing with heavy heart due to the decision not to charge the officer who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, and the attempted insurrection in Washington. The teams eventually took to the court after they walked off during warmups.
The Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors stood in a circle, linking arms for the American and Canadian anthems.
The Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks both intentionally took turnovers on their first possession with all 10 players kneeling on the court.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors took a knee before their game.
“A lot of stuff happened today,” Rivers said following the Sixers’ 141-136 victory over the Washington Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. “You know, unfortunately, we’ve been focused on what happened in D.C. It kind of got our eyes off a couple of big events over the last 24 hours.”
Rivers talked about no criminal charges being brought against Rusten Sheskey, the Kenosha police officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back on Aug. 23. He mentioned Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning their Georgia runoff elections against Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Their victories flipped a state that has been traditionally Republican.
“And just the turnout of vote in Georgia,” Rivers said. “Stacy Abrams, they need to build a statue for her in my opinion in Georgia for what she’s done and the leadership she’s had.”
In 2018, Abrams, a voting rights activist, founded Fair Fight Action, an organization addressing voter suppression, especially in the states of Georgia and Texas. Her efforts boosted turnout among Democrats in Georgia.
“And then you go back to these things, someone lost their life [inside the U.S. Capitol] tonight over something that shouldn’t happen,” Rivers said of a woman who was fatally shot after the mob breached the Capitol.
She was one of four Americans, who died after the insurrection at the Capitol incited by Trump.
“You know, it’s a lot of stuff for a lot of people to handle,” Rivers said. “I told our guys before the game, this is America, right now, and it’s better than it was 10 years ago. It may not feel that way right now.
“But young people are engaged, and they’re voting and it’s beautiful to watch. It’s not young Black people. It’s young people. It’s young people of all colors, of races and gender. They showed up, the young people did. I’m just very proud of all of them.”
Rivers doesn’t want people to think America doesn’t work. He wants them to know democracy still works.
He pointed out that it wasn’t a ton of people, just enough of them.
“It’s pretty disturbing, obviously. Sad,” he said Wednesday of the attempted insurrection. “But what I keep hearing is that this is an attack on democracy. It’s not. Democracy will prevail. It always does.”
Sixers forward Tobias Harris talked about the actions of his fellow NBA players from Boston, Miami, Milwaukee, and Detroit.
“I think it’s great,” Harris said. “It’s a peaceful way of expressing what the players wanted to express. It shouldn’t be looked down upon, taking a knee. It was a peaceful way of bringing attention to injustices in the world. And, yes, I respect players doing it, teams doing it.”