NBA teams protest Capitol riot, Jacob Blake decision

Miami Heat and Boston Celtics players kneel before their game on Wednesday at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI
Miami Heat and Boston Celtics players kneel before their game on Wednesday at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Photo by Alex Butler/UPI

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- NBA players and coaches on Wednesday protested the U.S. Capitol riot, as well as a prosecutor's decision not to charge police in the shooting of Jacob Blake, as 11 games were held across the country amid the unrest in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Wizards were in action against the Philadelphia 76ers, but played away from their home court, which is less than a mile from the Capitol in Washington, D.C.


Players and coaches from both teams addressed the riot, which came at the time Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Sixers coach Doc Rivers criticized the law enforcement response to the Capitol storming by Donald Trump supporters in comparison to its response against Black people in recent years who protested police brutality and racial inequality.


"It's pretty disturbing and sad," Rivers told reporters. "What it's not, is an 'attack on democracy.' It's not. ... Democracy will prevail. It always does. It shows a lot, though.

"When you saw protests in the summer, you saw the riots or more the police, the National Guard and the Army. And then you see this and you saw nothing. It basically proves the point about a privileged life in a lot of ways."

In Miami, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat players issued a joint statement before their game Wednesday at American Airlines Arena. The statement also addressed the Blake ruling. Players from both teams also kneeled for the national anthem.

The Kenosha County, Wis., district attorney on Tuesday declined to charge officer Rusten Sheskey for the Blake's shooting.

Sheskey, a white officer, shot and injured the 29-year-old

man Aug. 23. The shooting resulted in country-wide protest and a sports-wide game boycott by athletes.

NBA players were in Orlando, Fla., when the Blake shooting occurred, inside their bubble campus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Games from that day were postponed.

"2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed," the Heat-Celtics statement said. "We played [Wednesday's] game with a heavy heart after [Tuesday'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 drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today's protestors who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.

"We have decided to play [Wednesday's] game to try to bring joy into people's lives. But we must not forget the injustices in our society, and we will continue to use our voices and our platform to highlight these issues and do everything we can to work for a more equal and just America."

Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons players took knees on the court right after their game tipped off in Milwaukee in protest of the riot and Blake decision.

"I stand for change," Bucks center Giannis Antetokounmpo told reporters. "As my team, we stand for change. Whenever we see something that's not right, we are going to speak up and use our platform the right way."

NBA players union executive director Michele Roberts also addressed the riot and Blake decision amid the league-wide protests. Roberts said she had no discussions with the league about postponing any of Wednesday's games.


"All I can say is that I'm grateful knowing that hopefully nobody who looks like me is going to Capitol Hill to respond to this, because if they do, you'll see a different response by law enforcement. You know it -- and I know it," Roberts, who is Black, told ESPN.

Among those to speak out in protest of the events in Kenosha and Washington, D.C., were players and coaches from the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks.

Also, the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings.

"My thoughts on the situation are simple: If these were Black people who stormed the Capitol it would end up as the largest massacre in U.S. history," Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon told reporters.


Another five NBA games are planned Thursday. The Wizards aren't scheduled to play a home game until they host the Heat on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

Latest Headlines