SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Nearly a year after police fatally shot an unarmed black man in Sacramento and a series of protests ensued in California’s capital, the Kings and Milwaukee Bucks collaborated on a daylong summit Wednesday to address social injustice and encourage engagement and thoughtful discussions to try to bring about change.
The event held ahead of a Bucks-Kings game came nearly a year after the March 18, 2018, fatal shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark. Clark’s death ignited a series of protests that included protesters joining hands and blocking entrances to the Kings’ downtown arena as owner Vivek Ranadive pledged his support and vowed to do his part to address the issue.
“I made a commitment that we would work hard to have an impact and do better and bring people together,” Ranadive said Wednesday.
Ranadive was joined by Milwaukee co-owner Marc Lasry for a panel discussion along with Mark Thomsen, the attorney for Bucks guard Sterling Brown.
The Bucks were rocked last year when Brown, then a rookie, was Tased by police. He later filed a lawsuit saying the officers’ use of a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation constituted excessive force and that they targeted him because he is black.
Both owners hope further awareness might encourage more teams and communities to get on board to have a dialogue about issues and create positive change.
“I hope this concept goes viral,” Ranadive said.
Brown said he appreciated the efforts by both organizations.
“Whenever the team can do something as big as this for the community, it’s important,” Brown said after the Bucks’ morning shootaround. “It definitely lets some of the community members know that it is a push to make change, especially for myself, I’m pretty big on that where I stand and my situation and the platform I have. I’m looking to make significant changes in the community to help the urban, the black community progress.”
Brown had been talking with officers while waiting for a citation for illegally parking in a disabled spot outside a Walgreens at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2018, when officers took him down because he didn’t immediately remove his hands from his pockets as ordered. An officer yelled: “Taser! Taser! Taser!”
Brown later received a formal apology from the city’s police chief.
“I knew Sterling and it didn’t sound like him,” Lasry said. “Sterling, in my opinion, was just a great kid. And it didn’t make sense, it didn’t sound like him. … As we got more information we sort of came to a crossroads, which is there’s Sterling’s side and there was the other side. For us an organization we ended up coming down on Sterling’s side simply because we knew him as a person.”
Thomsen credited the Bucks for backing his client from the very start. He said he is pushing for Milwaukee’s police department to use this case as training. “You can’t heal until there is accountability,” Thomsen said.
After Clark’s death in California, Ranadive made an impassioned pledge of support for the protesters and the community at large following the first round of demonstrations on March 22 after first consulting with his players.
Ranadive, the first person of Indian descent to own an NBA franchise, said after a game last year, “We stand here before you, old, young, black, white, brown, and we are all united in our commitment.”
Ranadive said the efforts remain a work in progress and he is striving for every kid in the community “to have a voice.”
“I’ve always felt this is bigger than basketball,” Ranadive reiterated Wednesday. “… At the end of the day we have to take actions, and actions speak louder than words.”