Doc Rivers lauded the “phenomenal” NBA players after they agreed to return to action following the Bucks’ boycott, a pause in play the Clippers coach felt was vital.
Games on Wednesday and Thursday were postponed after the Bucks decided to sit out of Game 5 of their first-round series against the Magic.
The demonstration was made in protest against police brutality and racial inequality after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was repeatedly shot in the back by police in the Bucks’ home state of Wisconsin.
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As the Bucks’ stance garnered support around the league, initial reports from the NBA bubble in Orlando suggested the season could be halted as a result.
But the NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced plans to return Saturday, based on commitments from the league that placed a particular emphasis upon enabling voter participation in the 2020 general election in November.
Rivers, who was praised for his emotional words on Blake’s shooting earlier this week, told reporters following confirmation of the resumption plans: “The players were phenomenal.
“I was fortunate enough that they invited me to sit in on meetings and, just as a fly on the wall, I was so impressed with them. At the meeting last night, I was really impressed.”
Support of Black Lives Matter has been a constant since the NBA season returned amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the death of George Floyd in police custody in May bringing the movement to the fore.
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Citing Floyd’s final words as a police officer knelt on his neck — “I can’t breathe” — Rivers felt it was important the players had time after the Bucks’ unprecedented walkout to consider a route forward with their aims for social change.
“Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” he said. “Don’t give in to something that hasn’t happened. Keep pushing, keep working.
“The key to this thing is that I think we all needed to take a breath. We needed a moment to breathe. It’s not lost on me that George Floyd didn’t get that moment. But we did, and we took it, and the players took it. And they got to refocus on the things that they wanted to focus on outside of their jobs.
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“Then they voiced it, they organized it, they got it together, they understood they can’t do everything on their own. We all need help to get things done. They went out and they got that help as well.
“The pride to be in the NBA is very high for me. I slept very well last night, thinking that our young people spoke. That was fantastic.”
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