Chaos at Capitol sparks renewed racial justice commitment from NBA players

Los Angeles (AFP) –

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NBA players and coaches said they were shocked by scenes of violence at the US Capitol Wednesday, differentiating between rioters in Washington and the racial justice protests that league members supported last summer.

Boston Celtics and Miami Heat players knelt during the pre-game national anthem Wednesday.

They issued a joint statement referring not only to the chaotic events in Washington but also to the decision on Tuesday by prosecutors in Wisconsin not to charge the white police officer who shot and paralyzed Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha last August.

Protests of Blake's shooting brought the NBA to a standstill for three days in August in a protest of racial injustice that soon spread across an array of sports.

Many of those in the league commenting on Wednesday's scenes of chaos in Washington, where supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building, contrasted the reaction of authorities to the suppression of Black Lives Matter protests last year.

"2021 is a new year, but some things have not changed," the Celtics and Heat players said in their statement.

"We play tonight's game with a heavy heart after yesterday'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 protesters who acted illegally just shows how much more work we have to do.

"We have decided to play tonight'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."

In Philadelphia, 76ers coach Doc Rivers was blunt in his assessment of the scene at the Capitol.

"It's pretty disturbing and sad," he said. "I keep hearing, 'This is an attack on democracy.' It's not. Democracy will prevail. It always does.

"It shows a lot though. I'll say it because I don't think a lot of people want to -- could you imagine today if those were all Black people storming into the Capitol and what would've happened?

"It's a sad day in a lot of ways. But it's a part of what we are and so we have to solve it."