Kings and Celtics warm up with Stephon Clark's name on their backs
When they met Sunday at Golden 1 Center, the Kings and Boston Celtics wore shirts bearing the name of the unarmed man who was killed recently by Sacramento police.
The black warm-up shirts had "Accountability. We are One" on the front and "#StephonClark" on the back. Kings players spearheaded the idea; the Celtics organization offered its support.
It's not the first time players have used shirts to express a message in the name of social justice.
In 2014, the Kings and players around the league wore shirts that read "I can't breathe" to remember Eric Garner, who died after a chokehold was applied to him by New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Some of the most prominent protests have come in the NFL, which has come under fire for its response to them.
President Donald Trump last September called on NFL owners to fire players who protest during the national anthem. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the protest in the 2016 preseason, first sitting on the bench, then taking a knee, during the anthem. He went unsigned all last season and filed a collusion lawsuit; 49ers starting defensive back Eric Reid, who also knelt during the anthem, has seen little interest on the free agent market this offseason.
The NBA has been more receptive to players using their platform to encourage change, something Kings coach Dave Joerger said he supports.
"It's out of love and concern and what they're feeling," Joerger said. "I'm always going to support the players, even if I agree or disagree in any different things, I think that's one and two, that we do it together."
Clark, 22, was holding a cellphone when he was shot and killed late on March 18 in the backyard of his grandmother's house in south Sacramento. Officers, responding to reports of a man breaking car windows, fired at him 20 times.
Protesters demonstrating against Clark's fatal shooting formed a human chain around Golden 1 Center before Thursday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, delaying tipoff and preventing thousands of ticketholders from entering. The team said it will issue refunds.
After the game, Kings principal owner and chairman Vivek Ranadive addressed the sparse crowd, calling the shooting "horrific" and vowing the Kings would use their platform for positive change.
Kings veteran guard Garrett Temple, who is out with a sprained ankle, wore his shirt under his suit jacket Sunday.
"It's something that I think we can use our platform, like Vivek said, to support and try to create change," said Temple, who after Thursday's game said he agreed with the protest. "Because no matter how you look at it, these things have to stop, one way or another. Us being on the national stage, we have a way to try to push our support towards change, and we're going to try to do that."
Players from both teams also filmed a public service announcement that aired during the first quarter of Sunday's game.
Temple, Vince Carter, De'Aaron Fox, Zach Randolph, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles, Buddy Hield and Justin Jackson took part in the PSA for the Kings.
Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, Abdel Nader and Greg Monroe took part in the 30-second PSA for the Celtics.
The players all spoke briefly:
"These tragedies have to stop," Fox said.
"There must be accountability," said Horford.
"We will not stick to sports," Temple said.
"It was great," Fox said of participating in the PSA. "It's something a lot of people wish they could do and I've been put on this platform to where I can help."
Temple, who is active in the Sacramento community and stays abreast on issues across the country, said what Ranadive did Thursday was important.
"I'm very proud of what Vivek did," Temple said. "He lost money because people couldn't come into the arena. ... But for him to go out after that game and support the protest and show there are things bigger than basketball, and show support publicly as he did, that speaks volumes to his character. "
When Ranadive addressed the crowd Thursday, players and management stood midcourt with him. Temple said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the Celtics were quick to reach out.
"We just said we’d be happy to help with anything (the Kings) planned," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "Again it’s a major talking point, it’s been a major talking point for a long time. We’ve had a lot of discussions in our locker room over the last few years and I think that ultimately again, we want to show that we care about it."
That is what makes the NBA unique, Temple said.
"Our NBA league is a league that I really am proud of," he said, "and that, I understand, wouldn't happen in a lot of other leagues."