Sixers' Doc Rivers advocates for George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

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Rivers advocates for George Floyd Justice in Policing Act originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

One year after George Floyd was killed in Minnesota, Doc Rivers spoke Tuesday following the Sixers’ practice in support of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

“Before I say something about it, this is not political, the George Floyd bill,” Rivers said. “This has nothing to do with if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. I am the son of a police offer. I’m pro-police. This has nothing to do with being anti-police. The George Floyd bill, in my opinion, is a bill that both sides should want to pass. One of the key points is about police training, so we can train our police officers better. I think every police officer would want that. So it’s a very positive thing. 

“The fact that it takes six months to be a police officer and it takes about a year and a half to get your barber’s license tells you that we need more training. … Qualified immunity is something that, there are bad cops out there, and it protects us against them. It’s just a really good bill. It’s a solid bill, it’s a fair bill. And I’m just hoping that every single person can call their senator. I’m a Democrat and I’ve called all my Republican friends — and I have a lot of them — to tell them that this is a bill that should be passed. It should be bipartisan. It should have nothing to do with what side of the aisle you’re on.”

Rivers wore a shirt for the occasion. 

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Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin when Chauvin knelt on his neck for over nine minutes. Last month, Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The National Basketball Social Justice Coalition released a statement Monday night “calling on our elected representatives of both parties to work together to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in the U.S. Senate now and present it to President Biden for him to sign into law this year.”

Rivers is one of the two coaches who are part of the coalition. Lloyd Pierce, the former head coach of the Hawks and a Sixers assistant from 2013 to 2018, is the other. 

The Floyd bill was approved by the House of Representatives in March. Per CNBC, “The Justice in Policing Act as passed by the House would ban chokeholds, carotid holds and ‘no-knock’ search warrants at the federal level. It would also tie federal funding for state and local law enforcement to officials banning those practices. It would make it easier to prosecute police and create a national database of police misconduct.”

While Rivers said Tuesday that he’s a basketball coach and the Sixers “won’t get sidetracked” from their goal of winning an NBA championship, he wants his players to be aware of the world outside of their jobs. 

“It’s not an athlete’s job to speak out,” he said. “It’s no one’s job to speak out. It’s our responsibility if we want to make it that. You should speak out. Everyone, if you feel it. We all are part of one country and we all have to play our part. I think the one reason athletes and entertainers and politicians speak out is because they have the mic in front of them. That’s the real reason.

“And so we have an ability to be heard. But everyone should who wants to be involved, because I know one thing: Politics are involved in us every day. Everything you do, there’s been some kind of political bill in your life. And I always tell everyone, ‘Well, then you should be involved in it.’ And I just believe that.”

Veteran guard George Hill decided to sit out Game 5 of the Bucks’ first-round playoff series last year following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which led to Milwaukee and other teams across multiple sports striking. 

“Most of those things hit home for me,” Hill said Tuesday. “I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I grew up in a family that’s been involved with the police plenty of times and things like that. So I’ve seen it and impacts me in certain ways. I have a bunch of AAU program kids in Indianapolis that look up to me, and I had a lot of friends who played basketball who are either in jail … or dead, also. It’s something that’s always been instilled in me, the way my parents raised me to speak up, to be a leader, not a follower. But at the same time, I grew up just the same way. I come from food stamps. I come from our lights getting turned off and sometimes we (didn’t) have food to put on the table. 

“And life is bigger than the sport that we play. In everyone’s eyes we’re looked at as superheroes, but once we take these jerseys off and these capes off and we go out in the community, we’re just another African-American. It can be any one of us that gets gunned down, just like the rest of them. It’s bigger than basketball. It’s something that’s meaningful to me.”