Before the Sixers played the Suns Wednesday night, there was a subject capturing national attention that they wanted to cover.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday of third-degree murder, second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on May 25, 2020, by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes.
“We discussed it today as a group,” Danny Green said after the Sixers’ shootaround. “(Head coach) Doc (Rivers), obviously he’s lived a good amount of it. He knows what it was like back then and went through it, which is sad. If it happened back then, there probably wouldn’t have even been a trial, which is crazy. But it’s a win. It’s a big win. It’s huge. I think instead of being excited about it, I think more people feel like it’s about damn time.
“But it’s a move in the right direction. We know we have a lot more to go, ways to improve in our country. But it’s a win; we’ll take it. It’s a good start, going in the right direction and getting progress. But it just goes to show you how much more we have to go to improve, to be better. It’s a good change.”
Rivers, who’s part of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition established last November, shared his thoughts about two hours ahead of tip-off.
“My reaction is a little mixed, I would guess,” he said. “The fact that we are celebrating or celebrated a man who committed murder going to jail, I thought about that last night and I’m not so sure if we’ve come a long way or we have a long way to go. You can think of that either way. But the right thing happened, obviously, and so I was excited about that. Black (people) have been dehumanized for a long time and to see a man go to jail for killing a Black man should not be significant, but it is. So I guess in that way, we’re coming a long way but we still have a long way to go.”
According to Green, Rivers encouraged Sixers players to speak out about non-basketball issues that matter to them.
“Doc was telling us today how important it is and how some guys may think they don’t have a voice, but we all have a voice and it’s very important,” Green said. “Even though we’re youngsters and we’re still learning, I’m still learning … we’re here to speak up for you guys and for everyone else that’s around us in our community. … We’re just going to continue to use our voice to give people hope and inspire, and speak up for those after us, those before us, those here now, and use our voice to help make their voices louder, as well.”
Both Green and Rivers commented on the perspective of Matisse Thybulle’s father. Green relayed that the 24-year-old wing said the verdict gave his Haitan-born father “hope again, to see something like that.”
“ … We at times live in a bubble, in normal situations,” Rivers said. “So I’ve always felt it was my responsibility as a coach to discuss current events and get their feelings about it. I often learn a lot — Matisse’s father is from another country, and his view of it. I think it’s very important. I don’t think everyone has to do it or it’s required in my job. I just feel strongly, and always have, that we need to teach. That’s part of what Coach stands for, is a teacher, and so I believe in that.”