It’s not even remotely close to the playoffs, and yet Monday night’s game at Barclays Center, where the Nets hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers, was filled with importance and anticipation.

It had little to do with the actual game however (the Cavs won, 110-88, by the way), and everything to do with the events swirling around it as basketball found itself playing second fiddle to politics and protocol.

Earlier Monday, the Duchess of Cambridge was touring a preschool with Chirlane McCray, the first lady of New York City. By evening, she and Prince William were greeted by — or really, strategically shielded from — protesters who staged a die-in outside the Barclays Center. The protesters arrived in advance of the game. The Duke and Duchess magically appeared sometime during the third quarter, CBS News reported.

Those protesting the death of Eric Garner rallied abound the hashtag #RoyalShutdown, determined to make the event more than just a lighthearted photo-op for the NBA and William and Kate.

To wit: People pose like this all the time, right?

They really are tennis people, aren’t they? Protesters snarled traffic and blocked entrances to the arena. The optics were not lost on organizers: Here were Americans, emancipated from the mother country since 1776 and still acting up. Studied gentility and extreme wealth, literally, from the old country, in high contrast with the shouty modern beneficiaries of democracy.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t as though Kate and William could escape the country’s boiling racial politics from inside the arena, either. LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack and Alan Anderson all warmed up in “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to pay tribute to Garner and protest the lack of charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death.

“It’s more a notion to the family than anything,” James told reporters via the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously, as a society we have to do better, we have to be better for one another. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It’s more of a shout out to the family more than anything. They’re the ones that should be getting all the energy and effort.”

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes was quick to point out the tension:

Irving spoke on his motivations as well. “I think it’s really important that we show our respect to the families,” he said. “More importantly, we’re in the city where the tragedy happened, and it’s really important to us that we stand up for a cause, especially this one. It hits close to home and means a lot to me.”

Welcome to America, royals! Or something.