Last week, NBA head coaches met on a Zoom call to discuss the nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism in response to the killing of George Floyd.
They put out a statement acknowledging their responsibility to use their platform, especially because the majority of the players in the league are black men.
“As a diverse group of leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who don’t have a voice – and to stand up and speak out for those who don’t feel it is safe to do so.
Witnessing the murder of George Floyd in cold blood and in broad daylight has traumatized our nation, but the reality is that African Americans are targeted and victimized on a daily basis. As NBA coaches, we cannot treat this as an isolated incident of outrage.
We are committed to working in our NBA cities with local leaders, officials and law enforcement agencies to create positive change in our communities. We have the power and platform to affect change, and we will use it.”
ESPN reported that the National Basketball Coaches Association created a committee following the call with the expressed mission of pursuing solutions to racial injustice. The committee is comprised of current and former coaches including Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale, Stan Van Gundy, Quin Snyder, JB Bickerstaff, and Doc Rivers.
On a podcast with Adam Schefter of ESPN on Monday, Rivers gave more details on how the committee plans to produce meaningful change in their communities:
“It’s been fantastic, we are really working on our messaging right now, and that's the tough part, we don’t want to get lost ... These things are so big, and so you get lost in trying to do everything.
There’s 20 different things we need to do to make this country better. Education for me is number one, we gotta have equal education. Police brutality is one, the incarceration system is one, so what we’re trying to do is pick one and stick to it and see it through even when we’re no longer coaching ...
We have 30 cities, when you think about it, that we can touch, and each individual coach will pick a grassroots organization to get involved in that will have lasting effect and that the owners back us of each team. And I think we can have some impact here, we just gotta pick right, and that’s always hard.”
Rivers has been outspoken about societal issues throughout his tenure as the Clippers head coach, buoyed in part by the Donald Sterling incident that forced him to speak up early. It will be interesting to see what cause Rivers picks, given his ability to speak at length about a number of concerns. He has a personal connection to the police system, having grown up as the son of an officer. He has also consistently touted the importance of voting.
The Clippers have made it their priority under the stewardship of Steve Ballmer to be a part of the community instead of just being a source of entertainment. Rivers’ participation this commission is an extension of the team’s ethos, but it is an important step to further address the issue of racial injustice.