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How Clippers and other NBA teams reacted to events in Washington

Players and coaches from the Golden State Warriors and Clippers kneel during the national anthem.
Players and coaches from the Golden State Warriors and Clippers kneel during the national anthem in San Francisco on Wednesday.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

As Congress prepared Wednesday to certify the Electoral College vote count, confirming again the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, Golden State coach Steve Kerr started his morning on the other side of the country with something else drawing his attention.

How his team would defend Lou Williams later that night without fouling the crafty Clippers guard?

“Suddenly, that didn’t seem quite as important when I turned the TV on as shoot-around was beginning,” Kerr said.

The images showed violent supporters of President Trump storming the U.S. Capitol, which forced lawmakers to flee to safety and left a woman dead following a shooting inside the building. That spurred a day of demonstrations, but no postponements, across the NBA — a league where such displays have become commonplace, even expected, though never before in response to events as extraordinary as the attempted disruption of a peaceful transfer of power.

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“This is America’s Capitol,” said Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks, whose team played in Philadelphia. “You should not be able to do what I saw on video. It’s disgusting, it’s embarrassing and it should never happen.”

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat knelt for the national anthem Wednesday night due to the Capitol protests and Jacob Blake decision.

Phoenix and Toronto’s players encircled the Suns’ midcourt logo before tipoff, arms linked and heads bowed. New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy, an outspoken critic of Trump on social media, called it “an embarrassing and shameful day in our country.”

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The Bucks and Detroit Pistons kneeled for 12 seconds after their opening tip.

The breach at the Capitol followed runoff elections in Georgia on Monday that handed control of the Senate to Democrats. The NBA and WNBA played a role in the state’s general election in November by helping to convert the Hawks’ arena into a polling place.

Unable to meet with players in a full group because of COVID-19 restrictions in San Francisco, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue called players ahead of their eventual 108-101 victory over the Warriors. He said he was saddened most that players were not shocked.

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Lue and Kerr spoke before tipoff and agreed, along with input from players, that both teams would kneel during the national anthem.

“In my personal opinion, that wasn’t enough,” said Clippers forward Marcus Morris, who made his season debut. “I don’t think we should have played. But, we did and we came together and thought taking a knee was appropriate.”

Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said that “democracy will prevail,” but drew a distinction in the images he saw from the Capitol.

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“When you saw the protests in summer, you saw ... the police and the National Guard and the Army,” Rivers said. “And then you see this and you saw nothing. It basically proves the point about a privileged life in a lot of ways.

Five takeaways from the Los Angeles Clippers’ loss the Spurs in San Antonio on Tuesday night.

“I’ll say it because I don’t think a lot of people want to,” Rivers said. “Could you imagine today if those were all Black people storming the Capitol and what would’ve happened?”

In a moment of levity before tipoff in San Francisco, Kerr joked that he still had not come up with a plan to defend the Clippers’ Williams. But he spent little of his time laughing.

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“It was so disheartening,” Kerr said afterward. “I think everyone came into the arena this evening just kind of dazed.”


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