Doc Rivers on walkout discussions, enacting change

The Los Angeles Clippers head coach spoke on Friday about the NBA players walkout, talks on resuming the season and creating real societal change in America.

Video Transcript

BRODERICK TURNER: You and I have heard-- I'm sure everyone's heard-- it's been 400 years of trying to get change.


BRODERICK TURNER: Now that you guys are doing this, how do you reconcile time to tell your players, your team, other players, the public, that just because it hasn't been enough change, that you still can't stop, you still have to keep fighting? How do you deal with that, now that we're still dealing with these situations?

DOC RIVERS: Well, you know, change doesn't happen a lot of times quickly, either. And I think our players actually kind of learned that over the last couple of days. I'm going to start with this, that the players were phenomenal. I was fortunate enough they invited me to sit in on the meetings. And you know, all of them-- there's been so many different reports. But just from a fly on the wall, I was just so impressed with them.

The meeting last night, I thought-- I was really impressed. Because you learn a lot of things, you know? Number one, that the players and the owners are partners. And it didn't have to be a contentious meeting, and it wasn't. It was a discussion about what they needed, what they wanted. And you know, Adam and the owners are on board with most of it, or all of it. And even the things that they didn't come to an agreement on, they discussed. So just to start there is great.

But you're right, you know? Just because something hasn't happened doesn't mean it can't happen. And like I've always said, don't give in to something that hasn't happened. Keep pushing, keep working. The key to this thing is that I think that we all needed to take a breath, you know? We needed a moment to breathe. It's not lost on me that George Floyd didn't get that moment, you know? But we did, and we took it, and the players took it.

And they got to refocus on the things that they wanted to focus on outside of their jobs. And then they voiced it, they organized it, they got it together. They understood they can't do everything on their own, that we all need help to get things done. And they went out, and they got that help as well. So again, there's just the pride to be in the NBA. It was very high for me. I slept very well last night, thinking that our young people spoke. And that was fantastic.

- Thank you.

- Thanks, BT. Next up, we have Ohm. Go ahead, Ohm.

OHM YOUNGMISUK: Hey, Doc. Yesterday, you spoke about how emotional it was for your team. Like, Wednesday night, they went from thinking that it was over to Thursday, we're playing again and playing for a championship. I mean, it sounds like the world has really kind of changed inside the bubble in the last 48 hours for you guys. What's the challenge of getting back on the court mentally, and just refocusing on playing basketball again? Won't it feel different playing on Sunday, as opposed, to say, when you guys played the last time you were on the court?

DOC RIVERS: I don't know if it'll feel different or not. What's never lost on me is my job, you know? At the end of the day, it's not the NBA's job to solve the world. It's the NBA's job to be part of the world. And so I think we've accomplished that part. But you still have to do your jobs. You know, I think that today may be a tough day, and even whenever we play tomorrow But will a tough day practice-wise, just to get refocused. But I do think that a couple of days off will help in that fact as well.

- Thanks. Doc, next question is going to come from Cassidy, down in Orlando.

CASSIDY HUBBARTH: This poll today said that being in that room, specifically on Wednesday night, was unlike anything we've ever seen in this 15 years.


CASSIDY HUBBARTH: Coach, how would you describe what that feeling was to have all those players and coaches in that room? What was that feeling like for you?

DOC RIVERS: It was awesome, Cassidy, again. And I don't even know if that meeting went well, you know? That meeting had a lot of anger, a lot of voices, a lot of emotion. I think I've learned long ago, emotion is great, you know? Being emotional sometimes is not, you know what I mean? But it was out there. We got to hear what people felt and thought.

So to me, that was very powerful, you know? That's what I told our guys-- the players-- that this is a powerful moment. You guys are learning how powerful you can be. And then I was proud of them. But then to come back that next morning, and it was amazing, the difference. They got it out, then they could talk. And then in this third meeting, now we could work. I just thought the progression of that was absolutely perfect.

- Thanks, Cassidy. Doc, the next question is from Dan Wilkie.

DAN WILKIE: Doc, kind of a couple of ones that are all sort of related. You know, you said progress is slow in this stuff. But one of the things players were able to accomplish was a commitment on NBA arenas to be used as polling places?


DAN WILKIE: That's already been moving in a little bit in that direction, but to get Houston yesterday, Utah today-- I assume more will come after it. How important was it to see something tangible? And then I think, secondly, you know, you mentioned being a part of the world. Players are on CNN, people are talking now.


DAN WILKIE: But in a week or two weeks, it's going to be the conference finals, and the stakes on the court are going to be higher. And then it'll be the NBA finals, and the stakes will be higher still. How can that not overshadow the real work, and is that even possible?

DOC RIVERS: I don't know if it's possible or not. I think that's up to the players, and it's up to you guys, you know, to keep the talk going. Listen, the stakes are high now, you know, for players and coaches. You know, we've had a couple of coaches fired, you know, after they lost. So I don't think anybody that plays the game thinks the stakes aren't high now. But after the game, or whenever you feel like it, you can still speak out.

And you don't have to speak out. It's not your job. Some guys choose to. I always choose to do it. But there's no demand that you have to. I think everybody should do whatever is comfortable in their space, and we can keep doing it. I just think there's so many guys that will that there's no way that their voice will be drowned out during the finals, or the conference finals. Because when you think about it, we have even more media that is there to get our voice out. So I think that'll be good.

DAN WILKIE: And Doc, real quick, the polling places?

DOC RIVERS: It's awesome, you know? I'm already on a board, you know, for the election supercenters project, and that's what we're doing. LeBron has his group. That was the other thing, by the way. It was really cool that people understood you can all have your different groups, but you still do it together. And you know, that came to fruition last night when we were talking about it, you know? You can use anybody's groups. Miami is working really hard right now.

Some of these things were said already, and some have just started. But the tangible things were important. I thought taking the breath was important. Just needed a breather, right? I thought that was important. That's actually tangible for the players. Forming the coalition, I thought, was fantastic. Because that's the future, you know? It's not just now, but forming a coalition with coaches and players and ownership and the league, and then hiring other people to come in to help work that. I thought it's huge to get that done.

Voting is right now. So we're doing that right now. We got to get people to vote. Black men-- black and brown men-- have to vote. Have to vote. And so the registration-- the suppression right now has never been higher. Our players understood that, and so that's important. And so we've just got to keep moving forward. And then the George Floyd bill, we got to get that on the floor. We have to, and so we're going to work to get that done as well.

- Thanks, Dan. Next question from Andrew Greif.

ANDREW GREIF: Doc, good to talk with you. I was just curious, you know, in terms of your own team's discussions, I'm sure you weren't part of every single one among the players. But I guess, how did those play out from Wednesday night to Thursday morning? And there's been some talk about Kawhi as someone who really spoke out at one point. Who drove those discussions? What do you feel you learned from them?

DOC RIVERS: They all did. We had a long discussion that night in the hallway. But I thought everyone. I thought Lou was fantastic, Kawhi was fantastic. Marcus was absolutely wonderful. So there was a lot of guys who talked that night. I was just sitting there trying to get them to talk, and they did. A lot of emotion.

I think the thing I learned as a coach-- you know, where I would honestly admit that I didn't see how much effect the bubble has. The bubble has an effect, guys. And I'm the first to say I missed that. And so I got to be better in seeing that, like, how we can make this experience better for our guys? That's nothing to do with politics or anything else. That's to do with real life. And so we have to really monitor that better. And I'm the first to say I knew it was hard, but I didn't see the impact. So we have to do better there.

- Doc, next question comes from Chris Mannix there in Orlando with you.

CHRIS MANNIX: How are you, Doc? Did you leave the meeting Wednesday night thinking the Clippers were going home?

DOC RIVERS: No. No, I did not, no. I think everyone else did. But I just knew how high the emotions were. And I just had a lot of faith that it would all come down. I mean, I guess the report was the Lakers and the Clippers. I think it was close, though. I don't think it was a layup, either way. But I did not.

- Doc, we had a question from Mirjam. Go ahead, Mirjam.

MIRJAM SWANSON: Hey there, Doc. What was I going to ask you? Oh yeah, the fact that all the guys got together in a room, and how powerful that was. Are there plans to do that more often, to have sort of a big wide--


DOC RIVERS: That's a great question. I don't know that. You know, it's funny, we talked about that. I mean, CP and talked the first day we got here. And I thought it would be a good idea to do it. This was when nothing was going on. And you know, he told me it was hard to get everybody because of all the practice schedules and stuff. So I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to just get the rooms [INAUDIBLE]. Don't need any coaches there. Just them talking I think is very important.

- Great, Doc, and we have one last question from Taylor Rooks. Go ahead, Taylor.

TAYLOR ROOKS: Hey, Doc. So we talk a lot about perspective. But in years to come, when history tells the story about these past couple of days, what story do you want it to tell?

DOC RIVERS: Oh, man, Taylor, that's too deep.


God. You know, I want them to tell the story about what they're speaking about now-- that the league is doing something whenever that story is told. They're talking about what's happening at that moment, that it started then. The reason I say that, that means they're still doing it. And this-- I'm just hoping-- is not a one-hit wonder thing. This has to continue. And I think that's why the coalition is so important.

Because this is not about just today. Something's going to happen next week, next month. And we have to have a group in place to understand how to handle that, and understand how to help the players process through it. And we have to have a group that is working on legislation all the time, not just, you know, US, but state to state legislation. And so I think that's the story that I want told.

TAYLOR ROOKS: Thank you.

DOC RIVERS: Thank, guys.


DOC RIVERS: Thanks for the deep questions, appreciate it.