PLAYA VISTA, CA (News4usonline) Basketball and politics don’t always mix. But somehow, the social conscious Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, have always found a way to convey messages of civic engagement and community-involvement into the mindset of his players.
Tuesday after the team’s practice at the Honey Training Center, Rivers could be overheard by reporters talking to his players about the importance of voting.
“I call it a duty,” Rivers told reporters. “I think it’s our duty…I’m an older gentleman, and I think that it’s my duty to talk to them about current events. There’s times, like I told them I’ll just play devil’s advocate. I just want them to think about things instead of reacting. I think that society might be an overreact to what everybody’s mad about instead of acting in the interest of thoughtfulness. I do it with all the teams. I just try to get them to see outside of what we do. We live in a make-believe world. We really do. I think it’s important. Some coaches don’t do that; some do. I’ve always been one…that I think it’s our duty.”
Winning basketball games is why Rivers is with the Clippers in the first place. It’s what he does better than just about any other coach in the NBA. Rivers is closing in on 900 (894) wins as a head coach, an achievement he’ll reach pretty quickly once the regular season begins.
Last season, Rivers flexed his elite coaching muscles to guide the star-less Clippers team to a 48-34 record and a playoff berth. Rivers typically has his team dialed in or focused on the moment.
The moment on Tuesday appeared to be more about social awareness given the fact that the Clippers set up a voter registration table outside of its practice facility so players and other employees of the organization could exercise their civic responsibility.
“For me, it’s personal because I think…and I don’t know the numbers exactly, but I think that only eight percent of black males voted in the last election,” Rivers said. “Being a blak male, it’s personal for me. I’m not telling anyone who to vote for; I’m telling you to go vote, and I think our young people don’t understand how hard we had to fight to have the right to vote or not vote. So, we have to keep at. Like…we all complain, but then we don’t vote. It’s very personal for me.”
Count second-year player Landry Shamet as one of those players who have bought into what Rivers is preaching. Shamet said he was headed to the voting registration booth as soon as he was done speaking with reporters.
“That’s one thing that I noticed when I first got here; he’s very open to having conversations about some things that are important that not a lot of people might not be comfortable talking about. But we feel like we have a culture here where you can talk thinks like that and Doc wants to talk about things like that,” Shamet said. “I think it’s been important for all of us to be able to talk and understand their perspectives on various topics, whatever they may be. It’s pretty cool that goes out of his way and wants to educate us and also gives us an opportunity to give our opinions, and that sort of thing.”
For his part, Rivers views it as an educational and maturation process.
“I think they grow,” Rivers said. “I think that some players could give a hoot and they never change. Some here you [the] first, second, third, fourth time, and the next thing you know you see them reading a book. They’ll come to your office and ask you if you have watched CNN or Fox, and all of a sudden, they’re aware. I’m just trying to make them aware that there’s other stuff going on in the world that’s way more important than what we do.”
This reality is playing out now with the National Basketball Association (NBA) colliding with China over a tweet tiff that was reportedly sent out by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that showed support for Hong Kong protesters. The United State and China have already been engaged in a running trade war with tariff’s being slapped around by both world powers.
The NBA’s current international dilema is shrouded around at what cost will the league continue to do business with a government recently hit with sanctions by the U.S. for alleged human rights abuses. Capitalism, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, human sacrifices, and diplomacy are all at play here in this situation.
All this has spilled over into the sports world, more notably into the NBA, which is ramping up to begin its regular season in a couple of weeks. The effects of this rift between the U.S. and China, which cancelled NBA Cares events involving the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as knocking off a couple of league preseason games, could have a global effect.
Rivers was asked his thoughts on what he makes of the current dispute between the league and China.
“I don’t make much of it. That’s a great example,” said Rivers. “I didn’t know much about it. First thing I did today was I started reading about the whole thing. That will be a topic for our guys, that we’ll talk about.”
Dennis is editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about civil rights, education, government, crime, and social justice. Dennis covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. He is a graduate of Howard University. HU!!