On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks went on strike, refusing to play their Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. The Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers all followed suit by not playing either. Per reports, players engaged in an intense meeting later that night, but it led to a much-needed conversation with everyone involved.
For the first time since the intense strike and the emotional meetings, Doc Rivers spoke out and told FOX Sports' Brian Sieman about the events that took place Wednesday, including the players' meeting Rivers spoke at.
“I am not going to go too far into it because it was a players meeting that they invited the coaches and they wanted me to talk in it,” Rivers said. “I didn’t really even want to talk, I thought it should be a players thing, but Chris Paul really urged me to just say something so I did.
“I did what I did [after Game 5] and it just came out. It kind of just poured out. I just watched the players work, the meeting we had last night with them, we’ve got another one today, they’re trying to do real work and they’re trying to find out what to do. Or what can they do. You know, it’s funny, you realize you can’t stop the world’s problems but you can definitely get involved with the world’s problems and I think that’s what our guys are trying to do.”
The bubble has been fantastic in the sense that it has kept the coronavirus out and the players healthy. One of the things the league took into account but couldn't stop was the feeling of being isolated inside the bubble without being able to leave to see family members or friends.
Clippers forward Paul George spoke about his struggles through anxiety, depression, and his overall underestimating of mental health. His mental health affected his play on the court, and he sought help from his family, friends, teammates, coaches, and even a team therapist.
Doc Rivers said being in the room for the Wednesday night meeting was eye-opening for him.
“What I enjoyed or liked about [the meeting] is how many different viewpoints there were on a lot of stuff,” Rivers admitted. “It woke me up quite a bit to some of the things that I have missed since being in this bubble. I’ve noticed the basketball, obviously, and I’ve also noticed what's going on as far as the [Jacob] Blake situation and other situations, but you forget that being in the bubble is hard. And even some of that came up.
“I knew it was hard but listening to some of these guys speak, just mental awareness, we got to be a little sharper on that as well. Because I don’t think it’s coincidence that everyone in this bubble just seems to be a little bit more emotional and I’m not kidding. It’s true. I think part of the effect of being like jammed together every day, it has had that effect on everyone.”
The Milwaukee Bucks, who play just 40 miles outside of Kenosha, Wisconsin, shocked everyone when they didn't come out of the locker room for their Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic. Every team followed suit in full support after that, but no team was aware of the Bucks' intentions to begin with.
“I loved it,” the Clippers coach said of the Bucks' decision to protest. “I wish, obviously, they would’ve alerted all the players so they wouldn’t have been blindsided by it, but I thought the action was the right action, especially because of who it was. I thought the one team that had to take action immediately were Milwaukee, if we were gonna take action at all, and again that’s our choice. So they did, and then the league followed and I thought that was cool.”
Whether it's on social media or their media availabilities, NBA players have been making their statements pushing for social justice, racial equality, and for police reform throughout the last month and a half. Meanwhile, politicians and anyone else in power have largely been sitting on their asses not doing much. The strike, which caught the eyes of the entire world, has allowed the players to once again put pressure on team owners and politicians to enact effective changes.
Doc Rivers made it a point to say it shouldn't be on the players and them striking to bring about some form of change.
“No, it’s not, and that’s one of the things when we talked yesterday that I said. I said, ‘But it's your job, if you want to make it your job, to try to make where you’re at a better place,’ and I was so happy to see all the players who wanted to make it their job and do something. You know, voting is one of the things they’re gonna get involved in. Police reform, and just social justice, I think, are the three areas.
“I think we’re gonna form a group today to try to make that scope smaller and understand exactly what we want to do, but we’re on the right path.”
Whenever the season does resume, Doc Rivers' Clippers will look to close out the Dallas Mavericks. Game 6 was scheduled for Thursday night, but will take place in a few days — likely Sunday. After the last couple of days, the players can't wait to get back on the court and continue the pursuit of an NBA championship.
“Oh, they want to [getting back to playing]. They are really looking forward to it. Yesterday was a very difficult day, though. Like their emotions were all over the place. They thought it was over. It was just a really tough day for all of them.
“But I tell Lou [Williams] this, this afternoon he was in my room just talking, ‘Man, what a good, tough day.' And he was like, ‘What the heck is that? What’s a good, tough day?' And I said, ‘You had one yesterday. Some day you will look back on this and you will understand that.'”
At the end of the day, striking for a few days isn't going to suddenly stop racists and fear-mongers from being racist and inciting fear. It has been a long, strenuous, exhausting battle, and will continue to be so for years to come. What these players are doing, however, is the start of something that is impossible to ignore. The WNBA has been at the forefront of this as well. MLB saw its players follow suit and strike during games. NFL players also went on strike and released team statements about how fed up they are that Black lives don't currently matter. NHL players even followed suit.
“I think it’s been a good 24 hours,” Rivers said. “It’s been an exhausting 24 hours, but I think it’s been really good for our players. I’m very proud of them.”
The hope is that change comes from all of this. Change in the form of police reform, change in the form of a larger voter turnout, and change in the form of Black lives no longer living in fear for themselves, their loved ones, or their friends.