Devin Booker felt pain, pride and power within a matter of hours Wednesday.
The Phoenix Suns All-Star guard was upset with Donald Trump’s supporters storming Capitol Hill to protest presidential election results, but happy to lock arms with his NBA brothers before the game after watching one of the worst scenes ever in America.
“We just wanted to show that we’re unified and show that we’re still together,” Booker said. “It’s a sad day in our country. We had hopes of moving forward in 2021. We still have steps to take. Today showed that, but here in this brotherhood of the NBA, we showed that we’re still together and coming together is the way to go.”
Congress has since affirmed Biden’s victory as the next president of the United States.
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump said in a statement as reported by CNN.
Booker said he and Jae Crowder joined Chris Paul and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry in talking about what actions to take going into the game.
“Anytime you want to show any kind of sign, it should be communicated,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “So Chris and I talked before the game and I told him as a coach, I’ll support whatever you guys want to do, but I think you guys need to communicate. So he and Kyle got together. They wanted to do something that everybody agreed on, but also understanding that people are watching.”
With Paul being the president of the National Basketball Players Association, this conversation was very important and ultimately led to making the decision for the teams to meet at center court during the playing of the national anthems.
“We all happen to be in a situation where we are very fortunate and privileged to play this game, but there’s situations that’s bigger than basketball and the game,” Paul said. “It’s sad and unfortunate the things that continue to happen. We’re not numb to it. Guys have feelings. We discussed it and that’s how the teams wanted to express themselves.”
This was one of several pregame demonstrations throughout the league.
“I think given the vast majority of the players in our league are African-American, it can only affect every single one of them deeply,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It affects all of us deeply, but especially if you’re an African-American and you’ve had to deal with this type of injustice in your entire life and in your families lives.”
Lowry was extremely vocal about the situation after the game as CNN reported four people died with a woman being shot during the riots in Washington D.C. The riots started after Trump called for his supporters to march to Capitol Hill to protest the electoral votes being counted to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
“I’m reading, breaking news, four dead after rioters stormed the Congress to block Biden win,” Lowry said. ” Like what the f—? And the man that was the president incites them. He told them to do it. Like, that man is a criminal. He should be charged.”
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said he wasn’t shocked by the protests.
“If you’ve been paying attention the last few years, I think you can kind of see what’s been going on,” he said. “I grew up in this world, in this country, so I’m used to it. It’s not a good thing, but it’s the way things are. I’m not surprised anymore by anything and we just got to keep doing our part individually and collectively.”
VanVleet thought it was good to show unity before the game, but he also was very poignant in sharing his feeling about the United States.
“It’s a flawed system that prays on the weak and less fortunate and spits them out,” he said. “So this is the world that we live in and if you don’t know what it is by now, then you probably don’t want to know what it is or you’ve just not been paying attention to it. America has been racist and probably going to continue to be racist and we got to continue to do our part inside of that system.”
Paul made a point to discuss no charges being filed against the white police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a black man, in the back in Wisconsin last August as a major part of his frustration with the state of America.
“Seeing no justice for Jacob Blake, seeing what’s going on with the Capitol, all this stuff, man,” Paul said. “It’s a damn shame to tell you the truth that this continues to happen. For our players, once again, a lot of things happening very fast and we don’t necessarily get a chance to talk to one another. That’s what we got to try to do in these situations is to communicate and understand how each other feels and what we’re going through.”
The players put their frustrations aside to form that pregame circle to show a sign of unity they want not only for the league, but for the nation.
“It’s some different times,” Williams said. “I don’t want to put any words on it without giving it more thought after a game, but this is a much different time than any of us are used to. During these times, we have to stick together.”
Cameron Payne echoed Williams’ comments about the importance of showing togetherness during turbulent times.
“We just want people to see that no color matters,” he said. “We’re here unified as one, as one big group of people that respects each other and that we’re all for equality. Basically all of the things that were on the back of those jerseys during the bubble.”
Payne was later asked if he still wishes players were wearing messages on the back of their jerseys as they did during the NBA restart in Orlando.
“I don’t mind it,” Payne said. “I feel like it’s good to see. Just to let people know what each player thinks about the situation that’s going on. Basically giving us a voice without having to talk about it. Just showing what we feel and how we feel about what’s going on in the world right now. If it comes back, it’ll be great, but if not, like we did out there today, unified together, locked arms, I feel like that was a great message as well.”
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