With words and actions, several NBA teams showed dismay Wednesday hours after a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump was able to storm the U.S. Capitol and in response to a decision by a Wisconsin prosecutor not to charge a police officer who shot a Black man last year.
In Miami, the Heat and Boston Celtics released a joint statement saying they were playing “with a heavy heart” in a game where most players and coaches knelt for the national anthem. In Milwaukee, the Bucks and Detroit Pistons both took turnovers on their first possessions — intentionally, with all 10 players on the court kneeling.
Earlier in the day at the Capitol, a mob delayed Congress from certifying the results of November’s election and paving the way for President-elect Joe Biden to be sworn in later this month.
“It’s an embarrassing and shameful day in our country,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Wednesday’s events came one day after the decision to not to bring charges against the officer who shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year was announced. Blake’s shooting was one of the many issues players focused on last season in the NBA restart bubble, where the issues of racial injustice and police brutality were a constant focus.
The joint Heat-Celtics statement said, in part: “2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed. We play tonight’s game with a heavy heart after yesterday’s decision in Kenosha, and knowing that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on.”
The Celtics discussed the Blake decision earlier in the day, before the events from the Capitol unfolded. The Celtics then met again as a team after arriving at the arena in Miami, where many televisions in the locker room areas — normally on sports channels — were on the news.
“They’ve operated in a win-at-all-costs attitude,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Trump’s administration. “I don’t know, our sports world is a lot less important, obviously. But I’ve always thought if you operated with a win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s going to be a pretty unfulfilling ending. And in this situation, a disgraceful ending. So, I’m looking forward to two weeks from now, as I know a lot of other people are, too.”
Biden will be inaugurated two weeks from Wednesday, on Jan. 20.
The NBA had a rule for decades that players and coaches must stand for the national anthem. That rule was relaxed last year when the season resumed at the bubble inside Walt Disney World.
The Bucks won the opening tap of their game, and instead of running a play two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo simply held the ball as all players knelt. That resulted in a turnover, as did the ensuing Detroit possession when Blake Griffin held the ball and players took a knee again.
“We want to do things to help make change, be on the right side of the fight, continue to fight, not be in any way, shape or form distracted or slowed or moved in the wrong direction,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We need to keep moving forward in all ways, shapes and forms.”
Meanwhile, a men’s college basketball game scheduled to be played in Washington on Wednesday night was postponed after a city curfew was imposed in response to the mob’s actions at the Capitol. The Atlantic 10 Conference game between George Washington and UMass will be rescheduled by the league.
There were 11 games on Wednesday’s NBA schedule.
“It feels a little odd to play a game tonight, to be honest,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said before his club played in Atlanta.
Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers, who is Black, spoke of the stark difference between rallies across America last summer that often included violent skirmishes between protesters and police and what he watched at the Capitol on Wednesday.
“The symbolism of storming the Capitol without force done to them, if you’re a Black American, it definitely touches you in a different way,” Rivers said. “This is not a Black thing. This is an American thing.”
Republished with permission of The Associated Press.