There has been a spirited debate over whether NBA players should, in the interest of bringing attention to social issues, sit out the rest of the season or continue to play. Earlier this week, former Clipper Austin Rivers came down on the side of playing. His rationale was that players can invest the money they earn back into Black communities, and also that this struggle will last longer than one NBA season, so players need to figure out how to be athletes and activists simultaneously.
Doc Rivers has been in favor of resuming the season for a multitude of reasons — and it would be disingenuous to believe that the Clippers’ ability to win a title isn’t one of them — and he commended Austin’s argument on the “Flying Coach” podcast with Steve Kerr and Pete Carroll:
“I was very proud of Austin, I told him that. I said ‘Finally, I have some pride about you son.’ But it was funny, and I’m embarrassed to say I was out golfing and I keep getting these texts, ‘love what your son said, love what your son said’, and as a parent, the first thing you think is, ‘oh gosh what did he say?’ And so I read it, and he was right in my opinion.”
The Clippers coach stressed that being in the NBA gives players a platform; if they weren’t athletes, the outside world may not listen to them. But they have a voice because they are in the NBA, and playing will only serve to magnify the volume of what they are saying.
“In this case, I believe it’s so important for us to play, I do. I just think at the end of the day you can march and you can work, like most people are marching and working, we can do the same thing. But more importantly, it would give us an opportunity. A lot of us won’t have a voice if we don’t play, but I think if were allowed to play, then you will have a voice.
“I think we have an opportunity here to not only go and crown a champion, but we have an opportunity as a league to really put out a great message... there’s going to be a ton of responsibility every day for our guys to say the right thing, and so I love it, and I’m looking forward to it.”
A player coalition co-led by former Clipper Avery Bradley has been petitioning the NBA to meaningfully work to address the issue of racism, and that starts with the league itself, where players are predominantly black but executives and head coaches are mostly white. But that change isn’t limited to this moment, and that’s why both of the Rivers think it makes sense to continue to work with the league now and going forward in the pursuit of racial justice.
Doc Rivers has never been shy about expressing his opinions, and it’s interesting to see his son find his voice during this time. Now, they have to put their ideas into action with the support of the NBA’s platform.