Doc Rivers Says Taking a Knee Was Hardest Part of Lakers vs Clippers Game

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers used his first post-game press conference of the NBA restart to send out a strong message racism and social change.

As basketball made its long-awaited return after a four-month hiatus enforced by the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday night, calls for social change and protests against racial discrimination featured prominently in both games.

In the first game after the restart, players and coaches from the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans all knelt during the national anthem and were joined by the three referees.

Similar scenes unfolded ahead of Thursday night's second game, with Clippers players and coaches joined by their Los Angeles Lakers counterparts in taking a knee. Ahead of both games, players wore T-shirts carrying a "Black Lives Matter" message on the front.

Following the Clippers' 103-101 to the Lakers, Rivers spoke out on the significance of kneeling before the anthem and referenced the late George Floyd.

"The hardest part of the game for me was the kneeling for two minutes," he said at the end of his media session on Thursday night.

"In two minutes my knee is hurting, yet there was a guy who had his knee on someone's neck for eight minutes... That's nuts when you think about it."

Clippers’ Doc Rivers closed his media session with this:

“The hardest part of the game for me was the kneeling for 2 minutes. In 2 minutes my knee is hurting, yet there was a guy who had his knee on someone’s neck for 8 minutes… That’s nuts when you think about it.”

— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) July 31, 2020

Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25.

When he was arrested, Derek Chauvin, a white officer, knelt over his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd shouted he couldn't breathe, before seemingly losing consciousness.

Chauvin was subsequently charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Footage of the arrest was met with worldwide outrage and has sparked huge protests across the U.S., from Minneapolis to New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.

It also prompted the return to prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has found vocal support among players and teams across the major U.S. leagues.

The NBA and the NFL have been among the leagues encouraging players to protest peacefully. The former has painted Black Lives Matter on the sidelines of the three courts teams will use in the bubble in Orlando, Florida, and has given the players the opportunity to wear a social justice message on their jerseys.

Players have chosen from a list of 29 slogans—including Black Lives Matter, I Can't Breathe, Power to the People and Anti-Racist—to wear on their jerseys, which were agreed between NBA and the NBA Players Association (NBPA)

Players will be allowed to wear a social justice message for the first four days of the resumption. After that, players can still carry a social justice message on the back of their jerseys but their names have to be beneath it.

"Tonight we witnessed sober, powerfully moving and heartfelt demonstrations by our players of their commitment to the pursuit of justice. Very proud," NBPA's executive director Michele Roberts tweeted during the first game on Thursday night.

NBA rules state that players and coaches must stand for the national anthem, but commissioner Adam Silver indicated the league felt it was appropriate to scrap the rule given the circumstances.

"I respect our teams' unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem," he said in a statement.

Doc Rivers, LA Clippers
Doc Rivers, head coach of the LA Clippers, during the first half of a game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 26 in Phoenix, Arizona. Christian Petersen/Getty