The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NBA players, coaches comment on scene at Capitol: ‘This is the epitome of white privilege’

Supporters of President Trump take over balconies and inauguration scaffolding at the United States Capitol. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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Stunning scenes at the U.S. Capitol, where throngs of people stormed the building following a rally in support of President Trump, transfixed the nation Wednesday. Among those taking note of the unprecedented situation — and sharing pointed commentary — were NBA players and coaches.

“You do things like this,” tweeted veteran free agent Jamal Crawford, “when you know there is a certain privilege where nothing is gonna happen to you.”

Crawford was hardly alone in his sense that a racial double standard was in plain evidence, given the ability of the largely White crowd to break through barriers, smash windows and enter the Capitol building with apparent ease. Many in the NBA and elsewhere claimed Wednesday that the police and National Guard presence in D.C. and other cities appeared to be much stronger, better organized and more proactive during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police.

The NBA’s 11 scheduled games on Wednesday proceeded as scheduled, but Marcus Morris and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers told reporters that they would have been in favor of of the NBA postponing the games in light of the violence in Washington.

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Warriors forward Draymond Green said that canceling games was “not the answer,” but called the Capitol scene “ridiculous” and the law enforcement response “baffling.”

“It’s shameful to keep calling them protesters,” Green said about the description of the lawbreakers. “They’re not f------ protesters. They’re f------ terrorists.”

Green, like others, saw a system that he said has not changed.

“It’s baffling with the reaction that the law enforcement had and whoever else was involved from an authoritarian standpoint to see the National Guard standing on those same steps when there was a peaceful protest and now to see a terrorist attack and there was no National Guard,” he said. “It just goes to show you where this country is and where this country has always been and probably where it’s going to stay, to be quite honest. Nothing’s changed. I think through social media and all of these different things we have at our fingertips today, we’re more aware of things. But nothing has changed. This is the same America that it’s been. It’s no different.”

Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, long outspoken on social and political matters, traced the violence to years of lies and misinformation as he watched what was unfolding at the Capitol. “We’ve been talking about this for years, but the truth matters in our country,” Kerr told reporters. “If we allow lies to spread and if we enable people in power to lie, you all of a sudden have millions of people doubting an election that was certified in every state.

“A legitimate election is suddenly questioned by millions of people, including the people who are leading our country in government,” he continued. “Because we’ve decided over the last few years to allow lies to be told. So this is who we are. You reap what you sow.”

On the day Congress was set to confirm that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building. Here's how it happened. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post)

Atlanta Hawks Coach Lloyd Pierce said that it was “no coincidence” that the Capitol building siege took place one day after Raphael Warnock won a runoff election against incumbent Kelly Loeffler and became the first Black senator from Georgia.

“We live in a divided country,” Pierce said. “We could say it’s power and politics, but it’s race as well. Racism is real. The issues are real. The protests are real. What we’re seeing now is a sad reality that our country has yet to reckon with and acknowledge. For those who didn’t believe it, I hope you believe it now."

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Cleveland Cavaliers Coach J.B. Bickerstaff described the reaction of his young daughter. “My 8-year-old lil girl told my wife she was scared to go to sleep because of fear that those bad people in DC would come to Cleveland,” he tweeted. “No matter your politics that ain’t America! That is treason!”

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love called the Capitol violence “an absolute disgrace,” adding on Twitter that it was “a blatant example of inequity in how law enforcement chooses to deal with those involved.”

“Would the federal response at the Capitol now be the same if it were Black Lives Matters protesters physically forcing their way into the building?” New Orleans Pelicans Coach Stan Van Gundy asked on Twitter. “Remember the response in Oregon that was said to be needed to protect federal property?”

Philadelphia 76ers Coach Doc Rivers pointed to White privilege when asked for his view of what was happening in the nation’s capital even as his team was set to host the Washington Wizards.

“I will say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to: Can you imagine today, if those were all Black people storming the Capitol, and what would have happened?” Rivers asked in response. “That, to me, is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see. … No police dogs turned on people, no billy clubs hitting people. People peacefully being escorted out of the Capitol. So it shows you can peacefully disperse a crowd, would be one thing. But it’s a sad day, in a lot ways, not good for our country.”

Rivers’s counterpart Wednesday, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks, described the events in the city his team represents as “sad” and disgusting.”

“It’s a special place,” he said, “and you just hope that everybody from there, our fans, are safe. … You should not be able to do what I saw on video.”

Following the game, a Washington loss in which Wizards guard Bradley Beal scored 60 points, he said he had a “very emotional” reaction to what he saw earlier in the day.

“It’s very disheartening in a lot a ways,” Beal said, “just the lack of sense of urgency to respond to what was going on versus protesters with Black Lives Matter over the summer. … I retweeted something that Trump tweeted a few months ago, literally about the guys and people who will vandalize and basically disrespect any federal property in Portland and around the U.S., how those people will face a minimum of 10 years in prison. We’ll see if he has his foot in his mouth or if that’s something he really, truly stands by.”

All-star guard Russell Westbrook, who was traded to the Wizards from the Houston Rockets in December, said that with his family in the D.C. area, “it hits a little different for me now.”

“It’s very unfortunate to see if those roles were reversed, if those were African Americans and Black people, it would be totally different,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s so much going on, there are so many people losing their lives, whether it’s covid, losing their family members. Sometimes, we can’t control civilians and what they do, we can control what we do to make change in our society. And that’s the biggest thing that we can do now.”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Ty Jerome shared an image of a 2018 news story about a poll that showed a majority of respondents, including 89 percent of Trump voters, felt kneeling during the anthem was “not appropriate.” Jerome commented on the image with: “Ahhhhhh, they’re showing us the right way to protest today.”

When the NBA resumed the 2019-20 season at its bubble near Orlando, almost everyone involved in the games took a knee during the anthem. “Black Lives Matter” was painted on the courts, and players wore that phrase and others, such as “Say Her Name” and “I Am a Man,” on their jerseys.

While watching events unfold Wednesday, Chicago Bulls guard Garrett Temple exclaimed on Twitter, “This is the epitome of white privilege and Trumps ideal ending to his presidency!!”

Before a game in Miami on Wednesday between the Heat and the Boston Celtics, the teams released a joint statement in which they suggested that they considered not playing. Noting that authorities in Kenosha, Wis., announced Tuesday that a police officer will not face criminal charges for shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, the Heat and Celtics said they would play “with a heavy heart” because of that decision. The statement added 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,” the teams said, “just shows how much more work we have to do.”

“I always thought if you operate with a win-at-all-costs attitude, it’s gonna be a pretty unfulfilling ending,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said of the president and his allies. “And in this situation, a disgraceful ending.”

“What’s going on [right now] in the America that we live in is disgusting,” Celtics forward Grant Williams wrote. “The fact that this story will be told in our history is something that isn’t shocking but something that should never happen again. We must be better. I pray for safety to all those in threat by the TERRORISTS 2day.”