Sixers coach Doc Rivers has a message for the U.S. Senate:
“Pass The George Floyd policing act bill,” Rivers said Tuesday morning on the one-year anniversary of Floyd being murdered by a former police officer. “It’s both a pro-police bill focusing on getting them much better training, and a pro-community bill, taking away qualified immunity.”
On May 25, 2020, Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed Black man, was killed by since-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white.
Rivers wore a black t-shirt with white letters that read “CALL YOUR SENATORS” to Tuesday’s media availability. There was smaller print on the T-shirt that read “GEORGE FLOYD JUSTICE IN POLICING ACT” with a phone number.
Rivers believes passing the bill would be the best way to honor the memory of Mr. Floyd and others who have been victims of police brutality in America.
The bill passed with a bipartisan vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is now pending in the U.S. Senate, where the coalition hopes it gets similar bipartisan support.
The biggest obstacle to the bill’s passage has been qualified immunity, which shields police officers from most civil lawsuits.
Ending qualified immunity has been the chief policy goal in regard to police reform since Floyd was murdered by Chauvin. Talks leading to a bipartisan deal were expected to move forward this week. Sen. Corey Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, will be involved in the negotiations.
Democrats want to end qualified immunity in order to hold officers more accountable for violations of civil rights and use of excessive force in large part because killings by police officers rarely lead to criminal convictions.
Republicans have argued that the weakening of the provision could lead to officers facing excessive lawsuits.
President Joe Biden had set the anniversary of Floyd’s death as the deadline to pass the police reform bill. But with the House out of Washington until next month, that deadline wasn’t met.
Rivers is part of the 15-member National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, which includes players and team owners.along with Rivers, former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, National Basketball Player Association executive director Michele Roberts, and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
The coalition was formed in 2020 by the NBA and NBPA to lead the NBA’s collaborative effort in addressing racial and social inequalities by advocating for policy change at the local, state and national level.
Last month, Rivers voiced his concern over outcomes that keep happening where too many Black men, in general, are getting shot or arrested or pulled over by police.
Rivers was asked what he thinks has to happen for us to stop having “here we go again” discussions concerning white police officers killing unarmed Black males in America.
“This has been going on a long time,” he said. “We forget way back in the ’50s and ’60s, it was the police that were blocking the voting polls. That wasn’t people. That was the police. So it’s an issue.”
Rivers’ father, Grady, was a well-respected police officer in Maywood, Ill., a township just west of Chicago. Grady Rivers rose to lieutenant while serving 30 years on the force. So Doc Rivers knows for a fact that there are a lot of good cops.
“This is not political, the George Floyd Bill,” Rivers said. “This has nothing to do with if you’re Republican or Democrat. I am the son of a police officer. I am pro-police. This has nothing to do with being anti-police.
“The George Floyd bill ... one of the key points is about police training. So we can train our police officers better. I think every police officer would want that. So it’s a very positive thing. The fact that it takes six months to be a police officer and it takes about a year-and-a-half to get your barber’s license tells you that we need more training.”
But Rivers noted there are bad cops out there, and doing away with qualified immunity will protect people against them. He said that bill is solid and fair.
“I’m just hoping that every single person can call their senator,” he said.
Rivers stressed, again, that this bill has nothing to do with politics. He’s a Democrat.
“I’ve called all of my Republican friends, and I have a lot of them, to tell them that this is a bill that should be passed,” Rivers said. “It should be bipartisan. It should have nothing to do with what side of the aisle you are on.”