The LA Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the Western Conference first round series. While the win was celebrated postgame, the attention quickly turned to Jacob Blake, and head coach Doc Rivers‘ incredibly moving postgame press conference demanding change.
Video surfaced late Sunday night of another unarmed black man, 29-year old Jacob Blake, being shot in the back seven times by a police officer at close range. Blake was entering his car, where his three children sitting, before the officer opened fire.
Prior to the game, Rivers was asked about the Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but said he’d hold his comments for after the game because he had a lot to say and needed to focus on the game. Here’s what Rivers had to say.
“It’s just so sad,” Rivers said, taking his mask off while looking off-camera. “What stands out to me is just watching the Republican Convention, viewing this fear. 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 we’re denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear.”
Rivers’ emotions got the best of him as tears began to well up in his eyes.
“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. 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. It’s funny, we protest. They send riot guards. They send people in riot outfits. They go up to Michigan with guns. They’re spitting on cops. Nothing happens.
“The training has to change in the police force. 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. I didn’t want to talk about it before the game because it’s so hard, like, to just keep watching it. That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged.
“How dare the Republicans talk about fear. We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It’s just ridiculous. It just keeps going. There’s no charges. Breonna Taylor, no charges, nothing. All we’re asking is you live up to the Constitution. That’s all we’re asking for everybody, for everyone.”
Here's a part of Doc Rivers' incredibly moving postgame press conference – "It's amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back… It's just really so sad."pic.twitter.com/qjtM5Id6ty
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) August 26, 2020
Rivers comments echoed throughout the world, as NBA stars reacted to the incredible clip that’s already made its way around social media. By Wednesday morning, it’ll surely be one of the biggest headlines of the day.
Over the last 48 hours, players from around the league have expressed their frustration being inside the NBA bubble, helpless. They’re unable to protest in the streets, unable to act in any way to make a difference. Rivers doesn’t believe stoppage of play is the route to go, but wouldn’t think twice if his players said they don’t want to play.
“I think the one thing, you always play. You know what, we can fight for justice, but we still should do our jobs. I really believe that. Doing our jobs, people are seeing excellence from Americans, black Americans and white Americans. I would still do my job. That’s just my opinion. But if my players told me no, it would be no. I can tell you that. When you watch that video, it’s sickening, it’s sickening. His kids were in the car. How do they ever get that out of their mind? How are those kids ever normal?”
In 2014, Doc Rivers had to navigate through arguably the biggest scandal in Donald Sterling and the leaked tapes of his racist comments. So what’s his message to players now, in the midst of so much pain within their communities?
“My message is: Go after your dreams. You don’t allow anything to take you away from your dreams. During the Donald Sterling thing, Matt Barnes, Chris Paul, D.J., Blake, all those guys, J.J. Redick, they all pulled together. At the end of the day, the one thing we decided is when we were little kids, we were in the backyard by ourselves, we had these dreams about winning the championships, Donald Sterling was not in our dreams, and neither were these cops. So they’re not going to take anybody, they’re not taking our dreams away, all right? So that would be my message.
Clippers guard Lou Williams spoke for only a little over a minute after the game, and delivered a single, strong message.
“As far as the basketball game, I think that was self explanatory. I want to send prayers and a shout out to the Blake family. It’s unfortunate we’re in this bubble and we’re still dealing with these issues. We came here to bring awareness and use our voices for other guys and sadly, we’re here and it’s still happening. We’re still seeing unarmed black men get shot in the streets. It’s just ridiculous at this point. And I think it’s difficult being here when things like that are happening. You kind of feel helpless in a way. You can use your voice in a way but I think our presence is much more felt.
“To all our brothers out there in the streets that’s gonna protest these things, that’s gonna fight for legislation for prison reform and those things, I think that’s very important. It’s just sad. Outside of our jerseys, we’re black men and so it’s scary for an encounter with police officers right now. It’s unfortunate. That’s all I gotta say tonight.”
Lou Williams only had one message postgame today: about a Jacob Blake. pic.twitter.com/vQzCAmpe49
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) August 26, 2020
Reports say that Blake is alive, but is currently paralyzed from the waist down, but would need a miracle to walk again.
There is no one word to describe the videos that consistently show up on social media feeds displaying police brutality against unarmed African Americans. It’s sad. It’s disgusting. It’s vile. More than anything, it’s extremely tiring to watch, and as Rivers said, you don’t have to be black or white to feel that way towards these videos. You just have to be human.
The Clippers will practice on Wednesday before taking on the Mavs in Game 6 on Thursday night. LA is hoping to close the series out and move on to face the winner of the Denver Nuggets-Utah Jazz series, which is currently 3-2 in favor of Utah.