Doc Rivers has been one of the most vocal NBA coaches on the racial injustice issues facing America. Barack Obama recently lauded the LA Clippers head coach for his stances and enlightening commentary. This week Rivers was asked about the origins of racism in America, and in typical Doc Rivers-style, he offered up a thought-provoking response that raised more questions than answers.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley questions NBA and Doc Rivers responds
U.S Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri made sports headlines in July for a letter he sent to the NBA criticizing the league for its relationship with China and its list of pre-approved social justice messages to be worn during the NBA’s restart of the season. Hawley suggested the messages should include phrasing in support of the military, and law enforcement personnel, such as “God Bless America,” “Support Our Troops,” or “Back the Blue.”
LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers, when asked on a conference call with reporters about the Senator’s comments, was unambiguous in his answer.
“We have a senator that tweets at (Adrian) Wojnarowski just because he was talking about what we were going to put on the back of our jersey. And they always try to turn it into the military or the police. There’s no league that does more for the military than the NBA,” Rivers said.
Rivers is correct. Hoops for Troops was launched in 2006 and is a year-round initiative led by the NBA, its teams, and players in collaboration with the Department of Defense, USO, TAPS, and other military and veteran-serving organizations to honor active and retired service members and their families. Rivers didn’t stop there.
“I’ll make a challenge: We will do things for the troops as long as he acknowledges Black Lives Matter. I think that would be really cool for him to do. You know, it’s funny, whenever we talk about justice, people try to change the message. Colin Kaepernick kneels. It had nothing to do with the troops. It had to do with social injustice, and everyone tried to change the narrative. How about staying on what we are talking about and dealing with that, instead of trying to trick us or trick your constituents?”
Doc Rivers offers emotional response to Jacob Blake shooting
Last month, just days after the Jacob Blake shooting in Wisconsin, Doc Rivers, who has personally been a victim of racist incidents including having his house burned down, addressed the Blake situation following a Clippers’ victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot, and we’re the ones that are denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear.
“It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad,” Rivers said, getting choked up. “Like, I should just be a coach. I’m so often reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We got to do better. But we got to demand better.”
Clippers coach calls out America’s ‘original sin of slavery’
Doc Rivers has called out a U.S. Senator and the President. On Tuesday, Rivers called out the nation, and specifically, the education system and how racism was intricately woven into the fabric of the system from the beginning.
The 58-year-old Rivers, who grew up in Illinois, spoke from his own childhood experiences.
“We sang Dixie songs in high school, in grade school, and we almost celebrated slavery, like it was a cool thing. Think about it. Black kids singing songs about picking cotton, how absurd that is when you think about it? Now, as a kid I never thought anything of it. Thought it was a cool song. And when you grow up, you’re like, ‘What the hell was that?’
“I keep saying it, (this country) has not come to grips with the original sin of slavery and the impact of slavery. If you look at our country, and you just did it in 275-year increments, well, if you take the first 175 years, 150 years of that was slavery. The next 50 or 60 years was Jim Crow, segregation, hanging, lynching. If you give anybody a 200-year head start economically, educationally, you’re going to be in a deficit, and we have not come to grips with the impact of that.”
Doc Rivers is a successful NBA coach because of his ability to coach or teach his players. For the last few months, Rivers has been giving the public regular lessons on the challenging and painful experiences of what it’s like being a Black person in America. His words and lessons are profound. And he delivers them at the perfect rhythmic cadence and tone the nation needs to hear at this unprecedented time in its history.