Finding a unified front on potentially divisive issues can be tricky. But like many NBA teams, the Sacramento Kings plan to do just that.
Following in the spirit of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has protested against racial injustice in America, Kings players said they will join other NBA teams and stand united over concerns of police brutality against black men.
Whether taking a knee during the national anthem, as Kaepernick has done, or raising a black-gloved fist, as U.S. sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith did at the 1968 Olympics, the Kings and other NBA athletes and teams plan to demonstrate this season — even at the risk of making fans uncomfortable or angry.
The Kings’ players remain committed that any symbolic gesture will be done as a team.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” center DeMarcus Cousins said. “Whatever it is, we’ll do it as a team. It’s much needed. We need to bring awareness to the situation and I’m all for it.”
It’s always a touchy situation, and the reason I say it’s touchy is because (fans) expect us, being in the position we’re in, I guess you could say to be censored or not speak our minds, and that’s not the case.
Under NBA guidelines, “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the national anthem.”
Recently, the WNBA’s Indiana Fever caused a stir when the entire team took a knee during the anthem.
“It’s a touchy subject because you’ve got guys that are a part of it, that grew up in it, then you’ve got people who have no clue and don’t understand it, so they bash it,” Cousins said. “It’s always a touchy situation, and the reason I say it’s touchy is because (fans) expect us, being in the position we’re in, I guess you could say to be censored or not speak our minds, and that’s not the case.”
Kings Coach Dave Joerger said recent incidents around the country challenge everyone to think. He added any demonstration by the team is a work in progress.
“You can look at it through the other person’s experiences, upbringing, education, growing up, what part of the country they grew up in, and then maybe you can get a better understanding when you do that,” Joerger said. “As long as our guys can stick together, it’ll be a discussion we have throughout the course of the week and it’s hopefully something that is together. Something that is proactive is best. How can we help, how can we understand better.”
Cousins is usually low-key regarding his work in the community, but he said he recently felt compelled to do more. This month, he hosted a forum in his hometown, Mobile, Ala., to improve community relations with the city’s police department.
“It was much needed,” Cousins said. “It’s rough times right now; that’s obvious. You can’t touch everybody in the world, but I felt I could start somewhere and that’s right in the community I grew up in. We had our own situation down there with an officer and a kid.”
Kings guard Garrett Temple is from Baton Rouge, La., where citizens became outraged and protested in July after Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police who were holding him on the ground.
Temple, who also played at LSU, still lives there in the offseason. He said his Christian faith leads him to speak out, including on his Twitter account, about episodes such as the Sterling shooting. He’s also active in the Baton Rouge community.
“When you see something that’s wrong, you want to step up and communicate that and not let that go on,” Temple said. “I think the biggest thing is when things are wrong, if people don’t communicate that and let it be known that something is wrong, the people that are doing wrong are going to continue to do it. I think that’s the biggest reason I’ve stepped out and talked about it.”
Kings guard Darren Collison said it’s important that the team stays united no matter what happens.
“You look at some of the stuff that’s going on in the world, it’s horrible right now,” he said. “I think we all know we want to make a change, but it’s, ‘How do we go about about that?’ Right now, for us to sit down and have a team meeting is probably the best option.”