Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers was focused on more than a basketball game on Thursday night following a 103-101 loss against the Los Angeles Lakers. In his final postgame comments, he made a moving comparison to his team taking a knee during the national anthem and the death of George Floyd two months ago.
Rivers compares anthem kneeling to Floyd’s death
Before the game, players for both the Lakers and Clippers took a knee while a rendition of the national anthem by the Compton Kidz Club played on the video boards from the court in the Disney bubble.
While it was a lovely version of the song, it went on for 1:40. That’s a long time to stay on a knee on a hard surface, and Rivers took note of it. He then compared it to Floyd’s death. Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, died in late May after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, held his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
"The national anthem took 2 minutes. There were guys who needed towels and things to get under their knees. And yet, someone kneeled on another human beings neck for 8 minutes. That's nuts."— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 31, 2020
Powerful words from @DocRivers
(via @Farbod_E) pic.twitter.com/M3qVPlWgb1
Rivers asked reporters around him how long the anthem lasted and estimated about two minutes. He said:
“The hardest thing that happened to me in the game today was kneeling for two minutes. My knee was hurting. And in the middle of it I’m thinking, in two minutes my knee is hurting, yet there was a guy that had his knee on someone’s neck for eight minutes. Think about that. The national anthem took two minutes. There were guys that needed towels and things to get under their knees. And yet, someone kneeled on another human being’s neck for eight minutes. That’s nuts when you think about it.”
NBA players focused on social justice in restarted season
Players for the Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans also kneeled during the anthem in the first NBA game back from the hiatus. They linked arms in a show of unity while a pre-recorded rendition of the anthem by New Orleans native Jon Batiste played. Referees also took a knee with players.
Kneeling is not allowed by NBA rules, but players and officials made their intentions clear in the lead-up to games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed it directly after tip-off in a statement and said “under these unique circumstances” the league “will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem.”
NBA stars spent their hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic fighting for change amid the nation’s reckoning with racial justice following Floyd’s death. “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the court and social justice messages are on uniforms.
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