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Doc Rivers challenges Sen. Josh Hawley over criticism as Clippers stand together

Clippers guard Lou Williams handles the ball against the Nuggets on Feb. 28, 2020.
Clippers guard Lou Williams says his concerns about the NBA restart were put to ease when the team voted it was “going to come as a group.”
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Clippers’ video conference Saturday began with Lou Williams saying his trepidation about restarting the season during the national protest for social justice, which once had him feeling “50-50” about rejoining the team, was put at ease when his teammates voted they “were going to come as a group.”

It ended with a powerful message from coach Doc Rivers directed at Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who was critical of the NBA’s choices in allowing social justice messages on players’ jerseys and “Black Lives Matters” to be painted on the courts for games.

Hawley wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Friday stating that the league had “crossed the line of sanctioning specific political messages.” He questioned why the list of approved messages didn’t include “Back the Blue” or “Support Our Troops.”

Rivers took umbrage with that.

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Paul George’s fast start during his Clippers debut belied the trepidation he felt about his surgically repaired shoulders. He is now healthy for the NBA restart.

“There’s no league that does more for the military than the NBA,” Rivers said. “But how about that, Senator? I’ll make a challenge: We will do things for the troops as long as he acknowledges #BlackLivesMatter. I think that would be really cool for him to do.

“You know, it’s funny, whenever we talk about justice, people try to change the message. Colin Kaepernick kneels.... It had to do with social injustice, and everyone tried to change the narrative. How about staying on what we are talking about and dealing with that instead of trying to trick us or change or trick your constituents? How about being real?

“I guarantee you we’ve done more for the military than probably that Senator. And I guarantee you this: We also are going to do things for #BlackLivesMatter. How about him? Maybe he should join into that.”

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Clippers Coach Doc Rivers.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers took umbrage with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
(Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

Rivers said star forward Kawhi Leonard arrived in Orlando on Friday night and would be in the 36-hour quarantine protocol before he can begin practice on the Walt Disney World Resort campus.

Leonard soon will join the rest of his teammates, including Williams, who had reservations about the restart.

The veteran sixth man has been an advocate for social reform, even pledging $25,000 toward bonds for Atlanta protesters in May.

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“We spoke as a team and we decided that our decision was going to be everybody or nobody,” Williams said. “So once we sat down, we had a conversation, we decided to take a vote and we just had more things in common and we just decided that we were going to come as a group.

“And so, I’m part of the group. I have a lot of thoughts and ideas of the things I felt strongly about personally. But I represent a group. I represent an organization so ultimately that led to my decision.”

Teams have truckloads of equipment arriving at the NBA headquarters in Orlando, including photos and other items to make it feel like their home facilities.

Rivers said the organization “pushed” for the players to make the decision as one. And it was decided that competing for a championship and using their platforms and voices to speak out about social issues were worthy causes.

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That, and the NBA deciding to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts and allowing players to have social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys, made it easy for Williams to join the Clippers in Orlando.

“Yeah, that’s progression,” Williams said. “I’m happy to know that I work for a company that stands alongside of the minorities that’s in this country and want to make a bold statement like that. Obviously they have a lot of sponsors and everything as far as sponsorships goes and some people may not feel that way, but I thought it was important for the NBA to listen to the players, listen to our voices and put the things in motion that we felt strongly about and stand next to us with those issues. So I was really happy about that.”


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