LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers unloaded his frustration and raw emotion over the shooting of Jacob Blake and the current state of racial affairs in the country on Tuesday.
Before his team’s 154-111 victory in Game 5 over the Dallas Mavericks, Rivers was asked about the Sunday shooting of Blake, a Black man, allegedly by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rivers said he would discuss the matter after the game. Following the Clippers’ win to take a 3-2 lead in the series, Rivers grew emotional.
“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers said of the Republican National Convention as he took his protective mask off to make sure he was heard clearly over the video conference. “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. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.”
Rivers’ eyes then began to well up as he paused to fight back his emotions. His trademark hoarse voice cracked even more at times during the more than three-minute answer. Rivers discussed what it feels like as a Black man to be constantly reminded of his color because of the shootings like the one involving Blake.
“It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back,” Rivers said. “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,” 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.”
Rivers wasn’t the only one frustrated inside the NBA bubble Tuesday.
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell had strong words following Utah’s 117-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 5, saying that Blake allegedly being shot seven times by Wisconsin police was “inexcusable” and “disgusting.”
“A lot of times where we say we don’t feel safe, it doesn’t matter how much money, it doesn’t matter who you are,” Mitchell said. “The common excuse is, ‘He shouldn’t have walked away; he shouldn’t have not listened to the cops.’ He doesn’t deserve to be shot in the back, shot seven times. That’s inexcusable. The point of us coming down here was to create change, and I feel that we’re doing a good job of that, but not good enough. It’s obviously not going to happen overnight, but it’s disgusting.”
“I really don’t know how else to describe it as an African American male,” Mitchell added. “When does it stop? When do we feel comfortable? When do we feel safe? … I just want this s— to stop, to be completely honest with you.”
Blake was allegedly shot by police as he tried to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle. Officers were responding to a domestic disturbance. Blake’s father, also named Jacob Blake, said Tuesday that his son was shot seven times. Blake’s attorney, Ben Crump, said his client is paralyzed and it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again.
Video of the shooting, taken from a window across the street, was distributed on social media and shared by Crump. The shooting has ignited new protests months after George Floyd, a Black man, died when a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly eight minutes.
And it has sparked anger and frustration inside the NBA campus in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Hours before the Nuggets staved off playoff elimination with their Game 5 win over the Jazz, a frustrated Denver coach Michael Malone and his players held an informal talk before their morning walk-through to discuss Blake.
Wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt, Malone vented over the fact that players and coaches can’t impact change as much as they would like from within the confines of the NBA bubble.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t think there is anything that we can do here that is going to stop what is happening across this country, with the latest example being Kenosha,” Malone said. “… By being here, we are isolated and we can’t help where maybe we need to help. It is frustrating for a lot of players, a lot of coaches, to be here.
“But I don’t think anybody thought by coming down to the bubble and wearing a T-shirt and talking and painting something on court was going to end things across this country. This has been happening for hundreds of years.”
The Nuggets have been one of the most vocal teams in speaking out against racial injustice while inside the bubble. Forward Jerami Grant was the first player to answer every question during his entire video conference session by speaking about Breonna Taylor’s death.
Rivers and Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle spoke at length about how disturbing it was to watch the video of Blake being shot.
“That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be Black to be outraged,” Rivers said. “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.”
Rivers’ postgame interview was seen by legendary Boston Celtics center Bill Russell, who tweeted his gratitude to Rivers “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!”
Clippers guard Paul George said he didn’t see video of the Blake shooting until moments after Game 5 against the Mavericks.
“It’s sad,” George said. “Another one. This is America. Unless people decide to do the right thing. This is America. We got to stand by all. We need our allies to stand with us. This is what’s going on. This is what’s happening. It’s still happening. Even after what happened with George Floyd. It’s within them. There’s some coward cops out there. It’s the system. We got to change it.
“I ask all my brothers and sisters out there to continue this fight while we’re in here; we’ll continue the fight while we’re in here. Everybody has to join together.”
Clippers guard Lou Williams, who had reservations about resuming the basketball season because he didn’t want the games to deter the momentum and distract from the protests going on around the country after Floyd’s death, gave one answer on Tuesday after the Clippers’ win and that was about Blake’s shooting.
“It’s unfortunate we’re in this bubble and we’re still dealing with these issues,” Williams said. “… 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.”