NBA coach: This is what "our president is trying to get us not to do"

During a video conference call with reporters on Wednesday, L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers weighed in on President Trump’s recent remarks about NBA players kneeling during the national anthem. His opinion hasn’t changed from the time Colin Kaepernick took a knee to today. He doesn’t like it.

Trump phoned in to Wednesday’s Fox and Friends for a very long-winded interview with the show’s hosts, which lasted almost an hour. With so much time given to the president, there was a wide assortment of topics covered. When professional sports came up, Trump said that despite the fact that he “pushed hard” for the NBA to start playing games again, the players kneel during the national anthem. He went on to say that he just stops watching the games when that happens. He described the action of kneeling as “disgraceful”. It is as though he takes the social justice statement by the players as a personal attack as he expresses how strongly he feels about it. “Hey, if I’m wrong, I’m gonna lose an election and that’s ok with me.”

Clippers coach Rivers wore a blue baseball cap with the word “VOTE” in capital letters during the video conference call. He referenced the cap as he accused Trump of voter suppression. He was delivering a favorite talking point of the Democrats. The bad Orange Man is trying to suppress the black vote. Specifically, he was referencing Trump’s tweet about the possibility of delaying the election because of mail-in ballots.

“Well,” said Rivers, laughing, “we lost one guy. Like, really, I don’t even care. We know that justice is on our side, right?

“And this hat that I’m wearing is what our president is trying to get us to not do, which I think is just as disgraceful.”

Rivers actively supports get-out-the-vote efforts and speaks out on social justice. He uses his platform to promote his personal politics, as NBA players do, particularly about the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Oh, my gosh, it’s vital,” Rivers said about voting during the recent media session. “First of all, it’s our right. And the fact that there’s so much voter suppression going on with Blacks and Latinos, and really young people, tells you how important voting is. And so, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. I have my opinion, as you all know. But I just urge everyone to vote, exercise that right. We have fought so hard.”

Rivers doesn’t need to “tell you who to vote for” when he publicly tells fans that Trump is suppressing the vote, does he? Though Trump claims that NBA viewership is down because of the politicization of professional sports, that claim doesn’t hold up. I do think, however, that Trump’s right when he says that many Americans are turned off by political statements from players on the court. Sports fans are desperate for their favorite teams to play, though, and that is likely keeping viewership up for now. Sports are a welcome distraction, especially this year while everyone is locked down at home.

According to Sports Media Watch, though, the NBA’s restart to its season averaged 1.86 million viewers on TNT, ESPN and ABC through Monday night’s games, which was up 14% from all three networks’ averages before the league halted play in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

When TNT showed the game between the Lakers and Clippers on opening night of the restart last week, the network more than doubled its average viewership for a regular-season telecast, making it the eighth-most-watched game of the season so far.

I find it interesting that the professional players and coaches who make a lot of money off lucrative deals in China are so sanctimonious about the state of America under President Trump when it comes to civil rights. They sure don’t mind taking money from the Communist Chinese, which, last time I looked have a much worse record on civil rights than does America. To blame one political party over another in the United States is ridiculous. Black Lives Matter began during the presidency of Barack Obama, a black man who was elected to the presidency twice.

Basketball players are shrugging off the president’s withdrawal of support. One player noted it’s a political tactic aimed at Trump’s base.

Everyone around the league expected this at some point. The reaction around the league has been a shrug, knowing the president is playing election-year politics the only way he knows how.

The Pelicans’ J.J. Redick summed up most people’s thoughts a week ago in an interview with Yahoo Sports, reacting to a different Tweet from the president.

“First of all, I don’t think anybody in the NBA cares if President Trump watches basketball. I couldn’t care less. As far as his base, I think regardless of the specificity of tweeting about the NBA, every tweet of his is meant to divide, every tweet is meant to incite, every tweet is meant to embolden his base.”

LeBron James spoke for all the NBA players and said the league “couldn’t care less” about losing Trump’s viewership. He delivered a get-out-the-vote message by noting “what leadership we have at the top” and if everyone wants to see change happen in the country, the election is right around the corner. He wasn’t willing to go further in his remarks, though, apparently having learned that the opinions of sports fans are not monolithic.

“And that’s all I got to say. I don’t want to, I’m not going to get into a … because I already know where this could go, where it could lead to for tomorrow for me. I’m not going to get into it.”

Suddenly the man who is always ready to dunk on Trump and his supporters for the press realizes a little discretion is probably a good idea.